Prior to tipoff, there was uncertainty as to whether or NBA games would continue as scheduled while the U.S. Capitol building was under siege by Trump supporters, however, both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics delivered a strong statement on why they decided to continue on to play during such national unrest.
The joint statement said, “We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal America.”
Before the game started, players from both teams kneeled for the national anthem, except for one Heat player: Meyers Leonard. However, this isn’t the first time Leonard has stayed standing during the anthem, and he previously explained to the media why he will wear a “Black Lives Matter’ shirt, but will not kneel while “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays along with the rest of his teammates.
While playing in the NBA bubble back in August, Leonard said, “Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult. I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.”
“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people,” Leonard said, noting how had numerous sleepless night before making his decision whether to stand or kneel. “I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into Black and white. There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true.”
“I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone,” he added. “I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”
After Wednesday’s game, after the Heat took a 107-105 loss to the Celtics, Leonard posted on Intstam to once again explain why continues to stand.
Coach Spo Delivered a Heartfelt Message to the Media Before the Game Started
Prior to the start of the game, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra said he was struggling to process what was happening in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. When asked if Heat players would kneel for the anthem, “I’m not sure,” Spoelstra said. “But we’re fully behind it.”
At the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, a woman was fatally shot in the neck, injuries to Capitol Police officers, reports of suspicious packages, while Vice President Mike Pence and numerous members of Congress needed to be rushed to safety. It’s an absolutely devastating scene in Washington and it was questionable as to whether or not NBA athletes will want to play amid the national siege.
Spoelstra said it surreal to see the “really disturbing images” coming in from D.C. “We didn’t talk about it formally as a group, but everybody is talking about it,” Spoelstra said. “The TV is on in the training room, all the coaches’ offices. We just can’t believe what we’re seeing.”
Udonis Haslem Says He Respects Leonard’s Decision Not to Kneel
While Leonard’s decision is prime for criticism, his teammate Udonis Haslem, who’s a member of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee, said he respected Leonard’s decision.
“On the one hand, we’re saying, ‘We want you to see things from our perspective,'” Haslem said. “But by saying that, I also have to see things from his perspective. And I can see where he’s coming from.”
“His being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,” Haslem continued. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t he doing it their way?’ Well, he’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.”