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Detroit — Pistons owner Tom Gores didn’t mince any words when asked about his stance on players protesting social injustice and police brutality.

It’s been a hot topic nationally, with President Donald Trump saying several times he thinks kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to the military and to the flag. Players, meanwhile, have said they mean no disrespect; rather, they’re looking for an opportunity to draw attention to the issues.

Gores didn’t equivocate.

“It’s two amazing things, to honor the country and for our players to say what they want. They’re two amazing things. Why should they ever meet each other?” Gores said Wednesday, prior to the Pistons’ first-ever game at Little Caesars Arena. “You should speak your mind. I would never hold a player back from speaking his mind.

“This country is based on freedom of speech — it just is. You have to be free to speak what you want. That’s the way I do it in my house and that’s the way I’ve done it.”

Gores, whose parents immigrated to the United States when he was a child, grew up in Flint, went to Michigan State and worked to build his fortune. He bought the Pistons in 2011 and was the the catalyst for moving the Pistons back to downtown.

“I have to honor this country. I owe so much to this country,” he said. “It’s hard for me not to honor it. I love this country — there’s nothing better. I’m completely loyal to this country and at the same time, we have to have that freedom of speech. That’s important. Why these two great things collide, I’m not sure it should. This is what we’re based on — freedom of speech and honoring this country.”

What if a Pistons player decided he wanted to kneel during the anthem? For many opponents, that’s the expression that sets off most of the vitriol.

“If that’s what he wants to do, absolutely,” Gores said.

Gores also was asked about the progress in bringing an NBA All-Star Game to Detroit. With new arenas, a midseason classic generally isn’t far behind. Gores said that’s part of the discussion, but didn’t get into specifics.

“We have to have an All-Star Game here,” Gores said. “It’s happening — it’s just a matter of when it’s happening.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver also was in attendance for the debut of the new arena and Gores said the league and Silver have been big proponents of getting the Pistons back downtown.

It’s been more than a year in the making, but Gores was happy the work is done.

“The city has tremendous leverage and things started here. I respect Auburn Hills and what it did for us,” Gores said. “I respect (former owner) Bill Davidson and what he built in Auburn Hills and I would never take that away from our history — it’s just a part of our history. Now, we’re making a new history.

“Life is about changing all the time. I feel really good about everything and this city is coming back. I’m excited about that. Just to be a part of the comeback is a pretty nice thing.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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