The Celtics and Heat briefly left the court before their game Wednesday night in response to tumultuous racial and political events around the United States this week. When they later returned to the floor to play out the contest, they issued a statement outlining their emotions and knelt for the national anthem.
On Tuesday, the district attorney in Kenosha, Wis., decided not to file charges against the police officer who shot Black man Jacob Blake seven times in the back in an incident that sparked widespread outrage, including from an NBA community outspoken about police use of force. On Wednesday, a mob of Donald Trump supporters broke into the Capitol building in response to the impending certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
Boston and Miami players suggested in their statement that pro-Trump protesters this year have been “treated differently” based on their political affiliation compared to those who took to the streets in response to racial injustice last summer. Players from both teams took to a knee before the game during the playing of the national anthem.
“We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives,” the statement from the Celtics and Heat read. “But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America.”
Basketball has been at the forefront of social activism of late, at times providing a blueprint for other U.S. sports to follow. Last summer, for example, the NBA and WNBA halted operations in protest of police force against Black people. MLB, MLS and the NHL made the same choice soon after.
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown has been among the NBA’s most outspoken players, spending significant time in Atlanta to lead protests last May following the police killing of George Floyd.
About an hour after the Celtics and Heat took a knee for the national anthem, the Suns and Raptors locked arms for the anthem, and the Bucks and Pistons took a knee following their game’s opening tipoff.