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Heat take knee during anthem at Disney, except Meyers Leonard; Jimmy Butler wears his name

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

As was the case around the NBA during the first two days of the league's regular-season resumption, almost all of the Miami Heat players and staffers took a knee during the national anthem that preceded Saturday's game against the Denver Nuggets.

The exception was center Meyers Leonard, who has family military ties. He stood at attention during the Star Spangled Banner, wearing a "Black Lives Matter" shooting shirt.

"Some of the conversations I've had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult," Leonard told the Associated Press. "I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country."

Leonard told reporters after the game, "I did in my heart what was right to me ... . I had to put my head down and I was tearing up."

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the approach was left to the individual players.

"We respect how each individual wants to express their protest," Spoelstra said pregame from Disney's Wide World of Sports. "But make no mistake about it, everybody is protesting, and it is not a political discussion. This is really just about basic human rights."

 

With arms locked along the "Black Lives Matters" lettering on the court at Disney's Wide World of Sports, the Heat players other than Leonard knelt with heads bowed, amid the league's effort to promote awareness of systemic racism.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the moment was one of respect -- and purpose.

"I realize some people want to make this about not honoring the flag, disrespectful to our troops, all those that have given their lives in the past and currently serve our military now, protecting our country," he said. "I think it's almost super patriotic to take a knee.

"And it's not disrespecting our flag. It's basically asking our country to live up to the ideals that we know that this country was founded upon. We have yet to live up to those ideals. And this is just a way to remind everybody of that. And we have a lot of work to do."

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