Jesse Williams Sits Out National Anthem at Big3 Basketball Tournament after Charlottesville Attack

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Actor Jesse Williams sat out the National Anthem at the Big3 celebrity basketball tournament in Los Angeles Sunday in apparent protest of the car attack at a political rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

According to TMZ, the Grey’s Anatomy star was sitting courtside at Staples Center Sunday to take in the Ice Cube-founded tournament when he apparently deliberately remained seated during the singing of the National Anthem.

Williams posted a video during the singing of the anthem along with the caption: “We’ll stand when you do,” a possible reaction to President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly attack at the so-called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville Saturday, in which a driver mowed down a crowd of people, killing one and injuring 19.

Williams wasn’t the only celebrity to sit out the singing of the Anthem this weekend. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett both remained seated during the Anthem at their respective preseason NFL games, though it wasn’t entirely clear whether the football players were responding directly to the Charlottesville attacks.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularized the National Anthem sit-down last season as a method of protesting racism and police brutality.

Williams — a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement who protested the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 — has previously spoken out to criticize Trump on issues of racial injustice in America.

“He’s a pig who’s trying to make sure that he galvanizes as much fear as possible, particularly against black, brown immigrants, and Muslims,” the 36-year-old actor told TMZ in March.

The actor also sparked controversy in June of last year when he used his Humanitarian Award acceptance speech at the BET Awards to slam police officers and the “invention called whiteness” for “burying black people out of sight and out of mind.”

The speech led to a petition to boycott ABC and fire the actor from Grey’s Anatomy that ultimately reached nearly 30,000 signatures.


Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum


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