For the second time this NBA preseason, there was a protest against racial injustices during the national anthem — and it came from the person singing the anthem itself.
Prior to a preseason game between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers in Miami on Friday night, singer Denasia Lawrence stood at midcourt, preparing to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But before she did, she unbuttoned her teal jacket to reveal a Black Lives Matter shirt beneath. She then went down on one knee and sang the anthem.
Lawrence is just the latest in a series of many athletes and activists who have either knelt or raised their fists during the anthem at pro sporting events in protest of what they see as widespread racial oppression. The movement began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and has since taken place in the other NFL stadiums and arenas around the country.
Earlier this preseason, anthem singer Leah Tysse knelt for the final few lines of the song prior to a game between the Sacramento Kings and an Israeli professional team. But Lawrence went a step further in wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. She also issued a strongly-worded statement after the game.
“Right now, we’re seeing a war on Black & Brown bodies —we’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalized,” she wrote on Twitter. “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.”
The Heat also issued a statement, saying the organization did not know of Lawrence’s intentions before she sang.
Meanwhile, all of the Heat and 76er players stood for the anthem. The NBA has been especially involved in the national discussion of race, crime and discrimination, with stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony all calling for systemic reform. But teams as a whole have not gotten as involved in anthem protests, with no instances of any players kneeling.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the league’s board of governors that he hopes all players continue to stand for the anthem, saying it was the “appropriate” thing to do, according to ESPN. But he did not say whether there would be any punishment for players who do not.