A Miami Heat employee knelt for the national anthem while performing the song before a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
“When I took the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the Heat game, it was bigger than me,” Denasia Lawrence posted on social media. “Right now, we’re seeing a war on black and brown bodies—we’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalized.”
Denasia Lawrence sang the song while on on her left knee at midcourt to a sparse preseason crowd at American Airlines Arena. She opened her jacket to reveal a Black Lives Matter shirt.
“We were unaware of it ahead of time,” the Heat claimed in a statement. They did not mention that the team employs Lawrence on a part-time basis as a “game-night operations” worker, as the Miami Sun-Sentinel reported. The woman identified herself merely as a “social worker” in her online posts.
The 76ers won the game 113-110. All players stood for the song. Some players praised the singer’s stand of not standing. Heat forward Derrick Williams offered adulation on Instagram:
Earlier this month, recording artist Leah Tysse briefly took a knee toward the end of her performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the first Sacramento Kings game at the new Golden 1 Center. She, too, cited police brutality and racism as the catalyst for her gesture.
Friday’s midcourt demonstration followed a declaration a few hours earlier by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that he hoped to see all players standing for the anthem this season, which tips off on Tuesday.
“I didn’t get paid to sing the national anthem; nor was this moment about any sort of fame,” Lawrence wrote. “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!”