Miami Heat players and coaches locked arms and bowed their heads in silence every time the national anthem was played last season.
In light of the latest comments directed at NFL players and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors by President Donald Trump, just what manner Heat players might choose to make a statement is something coach Erik Spoelstra said will be discussed as training camp opens on Tuesday in Boca Raton.
“This is discourse that’s going on in every living room right now, and this is our family,” Spoelstra said. “We will have that discussion about it. It is such a polarizing topic right now that I think it’s healthy for players to express where they are on this right now.”
Numerous NFL players, including some from the Miami Dolphins, knelt in silence or locked arms with coaches and even owners prior to Sunday’s games. Athletes in other leagues such as Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell did also while holding their hands to their hearts.
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In a speech at a rally on Friday and a series of tweets that followed Trump urged NFL owners to fire any players who knelt in protest during the national anthem and in one of his comments referred to any such athlete as a “son of a bitch.”
“Whether you agree with him or not, that’s not how we want our leader to be speaking in that vulgarity and explicitness,” said forward Justise Winslow.
“It’s time for a change and right now it’s about figuring out the best steps to make that happen. Just bringing awareness to the cause and understanding that a lot of stuff going on in our country right now is not OK. It’s not humane. It’s not ethical.”
Trump also tweeted Saturday that due to his hesitation, he was withdrawing his invitation to Stephen Curry to visit the White House, as is customary for championship teams. Other athletes such as LeBron James took to Twitter in defense of Curry.
“It’s a polarizing time right now,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a disheartening time. I commend the Golden State Warriors for the decision they made. I commend the NFL players and organizations for taking a stand for inclusion, for equality, for taking a stand against racism, bigotry, prejudice. These are all cornerstones of our great country.
“That’s the disheartening and discouraging thing right now is that this is really just an expression of our rights and our expression to fight this in a non-violent way. We will support our guys if they choose to decide to fight this in a coherent, connected way. Absolutely we all feel discouraged just by the divisiveness right now. We would all love to see more equality and inclusion.”
Spoelstra said although the team would discuss the issue he knew how the players felt about the matter.
“It’s exactly the same as the players in the other leagues that you saw this weekend,” Spoelstra said. “It is disheartening to see right now the divisiveness. We’ll meet about it as a team when we get to Boca. We support our players and other teams and other pro organizations for their right to express themselves in a non-violent way for a cause that needs to be addressed and unfortunately is a big-time issue.”
Heat players confirmed Spoelstra’s assessment as they shared their sentiments during the team’s Media Day on Monday.
“It’s like every time he opens his mouth. … like, oh, really,” veteran Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “When you think you can’t say anything worse he just kind of figures it out. I don’t know if that is genius or not. It’s unfortunate. Let’s just try to stick together as a country. Stay on the right path and figure it out. Let’s not divide.”
Winslow visited the White House in 2015 after his alma mater Duke University won the national championship.
Winslow said on Monday if he found himself in the same position with the Heat, he’s not sure he wouldn’t hesitate to go.
“Hopefully we’ll have that decision to make in June,” Winslow said. “But right now I wouldn’t be the first guy on that bus to [Washington] D.C.”