Denasia Lawrence turned her national anthem performance into a social statement that went viral.
As the social worker stepped onto the court ahead of a game between the Mimi Heat and Philadelphia 76ers Friday (Oct. 21), she opened her blazer to reveal a “Black Lives Matter Shirt” T-shirt before taking a knee and belting out the national anthem.
“When I took the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the Heat game, it was bigger than me,” she explained in a Facebook post Saturday (Oct. 22). “Right now, we’re seeing a war on Black & Brown bodies— we’re being unjustly killed and overly criminalized. 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.”
Lawrence noted that she learned “the value of fighting against injustice,” through her work with youth, families and veterans.
“That all are treated equally no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities,” she added.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Lawrence works part-time for the Heat on the team’s “game night operations staff.”
However, Lawrence noted that she wasn’t paid to perform the anthem, and isn’t looking for publicity.
“Black Lives Matter is far larger than a hashtag, it’s a rallying cry,” Lawrence continued. “And until our cry is rightfully heard, protests will still happen and demands will still be made!”
The Miami Heat released a team statement maintaining that they were “unaware” of Lawrence’s intention to protest the anthem.
Miami HEAT statement on National Anthem singer kneeling during pregame performance:
“We were unaware of it ahead of time.”
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 22, 2016
While Heat players have been standing in solidarity (versus kneeling) and linking arms during the anthem, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes that players “continue to stand.”
“All I can say is what we’ve seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem,” Silver told the press Friday. “It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do.”
Watch Lawrence perform the national anthem below.