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NBA players hailed by pope at Vatican for demanding justice

By TIM REYNOLDS

AP Basketball Writer

Pope Francis met with NBA players at the Vatican on Monday, lauding them as “champions” and saying he supported their work on social justice.

The five players — Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver — were joined in the delegation by NBA players’ union executive director Michele Roberts and two other union executives, Sherrie Deans and Matteo Zuretti.

“We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the papal library.

The union said the players spoke about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.” Belinelli addressed the pope in Italian, and the group presented the pope with a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting efforts players have taken and an Orlando Magic jersey.

“You’re champions,” the pope said. “But also giving the example of teamwork, you’ve become a model, giving that good example of teamwork but always remaining humble … and preserving your own humanity.”

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