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Raptors say they support athletes pushing for social change

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan says a friend of his was recently shot and killed by police.

Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

The Toronto Raptors plan to join the growing chorus of pro athletes speaking out against police brutality, a topic that has hit close to home for DeMar DeRozan.

"I had a close friend of mine a couple of weeks ago that was murdered by the police, shot 17 times," the star guard said Monday at the team's media day prior to the start of training camp. "It was something I haven't spoke out about, it was moreso of just understanding what's going on in our society and how much I can help."

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the "Star-Spangled Banner" in protest of racial inequality in the United States.

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Kaepernick's protest has spread across the NFL, and now some NBA players will likely follow suit when the season tips off next month.

The Raptors say they're all for using their high-profile platform to press for change, but didn't offer specifics of how they would do that, including whether they would refuse to stand during the anthem.

"It is our job, as leaders here, to have conversations about it," coach Dwane Casey said. "All I tell our guys is to be informed. . . and do it from the heart. It should be about bringing awareness to the situation and what's going on."

The NBA has a rule that players and coaches must stand during the national anthems, although the rule wasn't mentioned in a letter to players last week.

The letter said the league and union, "working together, have begun developing substantive ways for us to come together and take meaningful action."

DeRozan said there are many ways to protest.

"Anything we do, we're supporting one another, and that's what it's all about, being able to try to make a difference, and understanding everybody's point of view, thought process," DeRozan said. "So just moreso having that dialogue and getting everybody together and understanding: how can we help to be beneficial to the outside world."

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