Heat's Meyers Leonard: Standing for National Anthem 'Just What Was in My Heart'

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 2020

Miami Heat's Meyers Leonard stands during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard addressed his decision to remain standing for the national anthem prior to Saturday's game against the Denver Nuggets

Speaking to reporters after Miami's 125-105 win, Leonard said it's "just what was in my heart" and further explained his position, via ESPN's Marc J. Spears:

"I've had many difficult conversations with my current teammates and some of my former teammates. It's just what was in my heart. 

"I think I can be a beacon of light or someone be for both not only for my voice or platform and action, but in everything I'm doing. I certainly support Black Lives Matter. Again, I am very aware of what is going on. But I can be both. My patriotism runs deep.

"While this is incredibly difficult, I am very thankful for the Miami Heat organization and my teammates and former teammates who have said that there can be some people that don't understand you, but know the people that love you and know you stand with you."

He expanded on those thoughts in a Twitter thread:   

Meyers Leonard @MeyersLeonard

The Black Lives Matter movement also means a hell of a lot to me. What has been and continues to go on in our country is inexcusable and flat out wrong. I will continue to use my voice, my platform and my family’s resources to commit to helping make a change.

Meyers Leonard @MeyersLeonard

I’m incredibly thankful for the love and support from my teammates, the Miami Heat organization, my family, and friends who know me. They know my heart and where I stand. I’ll leave you with this - it’s OKAY to be BOTH. I can stand proud in my beliefs and also support BLM. 🙏🏼❤️🔨

Leonard's decision wasn't a surprise, as he told Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press in an interview before the game that he chose to stand in support of his brother, who is a member of the United States Marines and did two tours in Afghanistan.

"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 said to Reynolds. 

Even though a majority of NBA players and coaches have taken a knee in peaceful protest against police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem since the season restarted on Thursday, there have been a few who have remained standing. 

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac stood and chose not to wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt prior to Friday's game against the Brooklyn Nets

"For me Black lives are supported through the gospel," Isaac told reporters. "All lives are supported through the gospel. We all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we're pointing fingers at who's wrong is worst. Or who's wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God's glory. That will help bring us closer together and get past skin color. And get past anything that's on the surface and doesn't really get into the hearts or men and women."

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Becky Hammon chose to stand for the anthem on Friday, though both of them wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts. 

Popovich declined to answer why he opted to stand, telling reporters he would "prefer to keep that to myself."

Leonard told reporters he believes, "There is a line in the sand and it says if I don't kneel, then I'm not with Black Lives Matter. That is not true."

The Heat center did wear a Black Lives Matter shirt before the game. He also opted to use one of the NBA-approved social-justice messages on the back of his jersey, choosing "Equality."