Meyers Leonard Second NBA Player To Stand For National Anthem Since League Reopening
Meyers Leonard has become the second NBA star not to kneel during the national anthem since the league restarted on Thursday.
Players, coaches and referees alike have been taking the knee in recent days to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement, with the gesture being supported by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Despite a league rule requiring them to stand, Silver has said players will now be able to kneel during the anthem without consequence, something every player has done so far except first Jonathan Isaac and now Leonard.
Ahead of the Miami Heat’s 125-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets yesterday, August 1, Leonard – a Miami Heat forward – could be seen standing with his hand over his heart while his teammates knelt around him.
Leonard, whose brother served as a US Marine in Afghanistan, said his decision was a difficult one, but ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to kneel in protest. ‘Today, I listened to my heart,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I felt an overwhelming amount of emotion as I stood there during the national anthem,’ he continued. ‘My brother, and many close friends have sworn to protect this country at all costs, and that means something to me, as does the flag and our nation.’
However, he reiterated that the Black Lives Matter movement ‘means a hell of a lot to [him]’, describing everything that’s happened in the US with regards to racism as ‘inexcusable’ and ‘flat out wrong’.
Speaking to the Associated Press, as per the NBA, the basketball star said he ‘absolutely’ believes Black lives matter but that he had to stand during the anthem. ‘I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country,’ he added.
Leonard said he had wrestled with the decision so much he was losing sleep over it, stating: ‘Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult. I am with the Black Lives Matter movement.’
When he made his decision, he explained his reasoning to his teammates and some of his former teammates – almost all of them Black – with the NBA saying they supported his decision.
Leonard went on to say:
I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people. I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into Black and white.
There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true. I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone.
I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.
Heat captain Udonis Haslem reportedly had a number of conversations with Leonard before the game, and while he initially wished his teammate would kneel with him he came to accept his decision. Haslem was the first to tap fists with Leonard once the song ended.
‘His being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,’ Haslem said. ‘He’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.’
Leonard said as long as he had the support of his teammates, and as long as his brother was proud of him, he ‘knew’ this was what he had to do.
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