MIAMI (AP) — The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat knelt for the national anthem Wednesday night, saying they were playing “with a heavy heart” after a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump was able to storm the U.S. Capitol and the decision earlier in the week by a Wisconsin prosecutor not to charge a police officer who shot a Black man last year.
Wednesday’s scene from the Capitol, where a mob delayed Congress from certifying the results of November’s election and paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden to be sworn in later this month, was widely discussed around the NBA before games occurred that night.
But that, combined with the prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, caused the Heat and Celtics to discuss their options. There was some doubt in the hour before tip-off whether the game would occur at all.
The following is the statement from the players of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat:
“2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed. We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on. The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.
“We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives. 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.”
The Celtics discussed the Blake decision earlier in the day, before the events from the Capitol unfolded. The Celtics then met again as a team after arriving at the arena in Miami, where many televisions in the locker room areas — normally on sports channels — were on the news.
“They’ve operated in a win-at-all-costs attitude,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Trump’s administration. “I don’t know, our sports world is a lot less important, obviously. But I’ve always thought if you operated with a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s going to be a pretty unfulfilling ending. And in this situation, a disgraceful ending. So, I’m looking forward to two weeks from now, as I know a lot of other people are, too.”
Biden will be inaugurated exactly two weeks from Wednesday, on Jan. 20.
It was not known if the Heat and Celtics would face penalties for kneeling from the NBA, which has had a rule for decades that players and coaches must stand for the national anthem. That rule was relaxed last year when the season resumed at the bubble inside Walt Disney World in Central Florida, as part of the statements demanding societal change that the league made and encouraged from teams and players.
“I’m 59 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said Wednesday, when asked for his reaction to the events in Washington. “Our country, we’re being laughed at all over the world. From the way that we’ve handled the pandemic to this … it’s a sad day for everybody.”