As they have all preseason, players and coaches for the Miami Heat locked arms during the national anthem on Friday. Some bowed their heads. It’s the way the team has agreed to pay respect to the flag while also standing up against social injustice and police brutality against minorities.
The only difference this time was that the young woman who performed the Star-Spangled Banner, identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence, did so while kneeling at midcourt and opening her jacket to display a shirt that read “Black Lives Matter.”
The NBA has supported its players in speaking out against racial injustice, but has also asked its players and coaches to stand during the anthem to pay respect to the flag.
“It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier Friday during a news conference in New York.
The Heat said in a statement it was “unaware ahead of time,” Lawrence would kneel during the anthem.
Guard Wayne Ellington said he didn’t notice Lawrence was kneeling at first because he had his eyes closed, which he normally does.
“Obviously that's a topic that's going around right now,” said Ellington, whose father was killed two years ago in a shooting. “Some people are doing it and some people are not. I feel like what we're doing, we're locking arms and I feel that's our way of showing our unity together.
“But at the end of the day, to each his own. If she feels that's the way she wants to stand for it, more power to it. Like I said, us locking arms is definitely a great thing for us.”
Justise Winslow said he understood why Lawrence kneeled.
“I saw her kneel and I understand where she's coming from,” the 20-year-old second year forward said. “I understand her opinion on it. But as a team we try to show unity and respect for the flag. We also understand there are changes, social changes that need to happen in our community. As a team we felt to pay respect for the flag while also showing unity. And raise awareness for the issue at the same time.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been steadfast in saying sending a united message is important.
“We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united. So that was our focus,” Spoelstra said. “Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that's come out of all this has been very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here. And, hopefully, this will lead to action.”