Pope Francis has often recalled that athletes are social leaders and urged them to be role models.
A delegation of the National Basketball Players Association, which represents NBA athletes, met with Pope Francis on November 23.
The players were:
Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs; Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver of the Milwaukee Bucks; Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic; and Anthony Tolliver, currently a free agent.
The Holy Father wished to discuss the players’ work to promote social justice.
Honored and Inspired. Thank you, @Pontifex.— NBPA (@TheNBPA) November 23, 2020
"Today's meeting validates the power of our Players’ voices. That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms." – @MRobertsNBPApic.twitter.com/agvQ4MzDGZ
Pope Francis is a sports fan, especially soccer, and has shared his experiences of playing soccer as a kid. He finds in sports an opportunity to promote authentic humanity, and especially, relationships that cross cultural or other boundaries.
Francis also often recalls the importance of athletes as social leaders, urging them to set a good example with their lives.
Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBPA, attended the meeting and reflected:
That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms. I remain inspired by our players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.
The meeting, which was held in the Apostolic Library, allowed the players to discuss with the Pontiff their “individual and collective efforts” to fight against “the social and economic inequality occurring in their communities.”
“We're extremely honored for this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with @Pontifex. His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward.” – @KyleKorverpic.twitter.com/2ljhzrDypQ— NBPA (@TheNBPA) November 23, 2020
“We are extremely honored to have had the opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” said Kyle Korver, one of the players.
“With the Pope’s support and blessing, we are excited to head into this next season reinvigorated to keep pushing for change and bringing our communities together,” added Anthony Tolliver.