Woman asked to sing national anthem at NBA game drops to one knee and reveals Black Lives Matter t-shirt before belting it out

People cheered Denasia Lawrence as she finished singing the US national anthem 

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Monday 24 October 2016 13:03
Black woman kneels while singing 'Star-Spangled Banner' at NBA game

A singer performing the American national anthem at an NBA game on Friday opened her jacket to reveal a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and kneeled at midcourt moments before singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

Denasia Lawrence said she decided to kneel during the song in respectful protest against racial injustices. She was singing at an NBA pre-season game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 49ers in Miami.

The crowd cheered as Ms Lawrence finished singing the anthem. Writing on her Facebook page on Saturday, she said: “Right now, we’re seeing a war on black and brown bodies – we’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalised.

“I took the opportunity to sing and kneel to show that we belong in this country and that we have the right to respectfully protest injustices against us. I took the opportunity to sing and kneel to show that, I too, am America.”

Ms Lawrence said she was not paid to sing the national anthem and that her actions were not “about any sort of fame”.

The Miami Heat team released a statement on Friday, saying: “We were unaware of it ahead of time.”

The Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side while Ms Lawrence sang with their arms linked, which is their custom during pre-season games, and they plan on doing so for the anthem during the season as a show of unity.

"Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue," the team’s coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The national anthem has become a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand while it is played.

Mr Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports — and many levels, from youth all the way to professional — have followed his lead in various ways.

Singer Leah Tysse decided to kneel at the end of her rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ earlier in the month before the Sacremento Kings played their first home pre-season game.

She wrote in a post on Facebook that she knelt at the end of the song because “this act embodies the conflict many of us feel” and said that “as a white American I am bestowed a certain privilege in this nation that is not enjoyed by all people”.

"I love and honour my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," she said. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

Additional reporting by AP

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