NBA rules mandate that players stand during pregame performances of the national anthem. Those rules don’t apply to the people actually performing it, however, and so, for the second time this preseason, an anthem singer knelt during her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Before a Heat-76ers game at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, Denasia Lawrence stood at midcourt as an announcer asked the crowd to rise while introducing her. She then unbuttoned her turquoise jacket, revealing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt underneath, got on one knee and performed the song.
— The SongBird (@DenasiaLawrence) October 22, 2016
“When I took the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the Heat game, it was bigger than me. Right now, we’re seeing a war on Black & Brown bodies— we’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalized. I took the opportunity to sing AND kneel; to show that we belong in this country AND that we have the right to respectfully protest injustices against us. I took the opportunity to sing AND kneel to show that, I too, am America. As a social worker, I’ve worked with youth, families and veterans, and everyday they all teach me the value of fighting against injustice— that all are treated equally no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities.
“I didn’t get paid to sing the national anthem; nor was this moment about any sort of fame. Black Lives Matter is far larger than a hashtag, it’s a rallying cry. And until our cry is rightfully heard, protests will still happen and demands will still be made!”
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked the anthem protests in August, when he began refusing to stand during renditions of it before his team’s games. Kaepernick says he is doing it to decry racial injustice and police brutality, and some other athletes, in the NFL and elsewhere, have followed suit.
Earlier in October, Leah Tysse knelt while performing the anthem before a Sacramento Kings exhibition game. Tysse, who is white, explained on Facebook that “taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing” she could do.
“I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability,” Tysse added. “I believe that the majority of police are good and are against this, too, and as a nation we all need to speak up.”
During Lawrence’s performance Friday, Heat players and coaches linked arms, as they have been doing since preseason play began. “At the end of the day, to each his own,” Miami’s Wayne Ellington said (via the Associated Press). “If she feels like that’s the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her.”
“Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve had great dialogue within our walls here, and hopefully this will lead to action.”