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The NBA is seriously concerned over the Trump-NFL protest flap, says Cleveland Cavs owner

  • "The discussions [Thursday] at the NBA board of governors meetings were very, very intense; and very, very vocal; and very, very concerning," Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert says.
  • The NBA wants to work to address the concerns of players by talking or "giving them an outlet" to discuss the issues, Gilbert says, but added he believes that the relationship between NBA players and the league is good.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said Friday that the NBA is very concerned after more than 200 NFL players protested by kneeling or using other means of expression during the national anthem last weekend.

The NBA wants to work to address the concerns of players by talking or "giving them an outlet" to discuss the issues, Gilbert said, but added that he believes that the relationship between NBA players and the league is good.

"The NFL is in a different place because that's where it all sort of mushroomed out of," Gilbert told CNBC. "The discussions [Thursday] at the NBA board of governors meetings were very, very intense; and very, very vocal; and very, very concerning."

"I think everyone should be concerned," Gilbert added in an interview on "Squawk Box." "The players, the players' union, the owners, the management, the coaches, general managers."

Probably half the owners or three-quarters of them talked during the meeting, Gilbert said, "which is not that usual that so many talk, basically. People had strong feelings and it was about, 'Let's get ahead of it.'"

Dan Gilbert
Dan Mescon | CNBC
Dan Gilbert

The NBA regular season begins Oct. 17, and includes a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cavaliers at home against the Boston Celtics. The other game on opening night features the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors at home against the Houston Rockets.

The NBA's official rules for the 2016-2017 season under the code of personal conduct section states, "Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem."

The NFL rulebook that governs the way the game is played does not mention the national anthem. But the NFL game operations manual, which unlike the NBA is separate from the rules, states "all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem," adding "players on the field and bench area should stand at attention" during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner.''

On Thursday, President Donald Trump said NFL owners fear their players, and he renewed calls for action against those who kneel during the anthem.

Trump's criticism last weekend on Twitter of players who kneel during the anthem sparked angry protests around the NFL.

The firestorm started when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem last season to protest the treatment of African-Americans in the United States. Kaepernick opted out of his contract after the season and is currently an unsigned free agent.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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