BY IRA WINDERMAN
SUN SENTINEL / TNS
MIAMI – A Miami Heat executive told the Sun Sentinel on Saturday that there will be “no change” in the employment status of the team employee who knelt while singing the national anthem before Friday night’s exhibition game against the Philadelphia 76ers at AmericanAirlines Arena,
Michael McCullough, the team’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, confirmed that the team was unaware that Denasia Lawrence, a Heat part-time employee who works on the team’s game-night operations staff, would kneel during the performance while wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter” shirt that had not been previously visible beneath her blazer.
McCullough said the team would work going forward to ensure a more traditional approach from anthem performers.
“I’m sure we’ll make sure those performing the anthem for us will be signing it the way it’s supposed to be sung,” he said.
In an entry on her Facebook page, Lawrence, who is listed as a social worker, posted early Saturday morning, “When I took the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the Heat game, it was bigger than me. 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.
“As a social worker, I’ve worked with youth, families and veterans, and every day they all teach me the value of fighting against injustice – that all are treated equally no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities.
‘A rallying cry’
“I didn’t get paid to sing the national anthem; nor was this moment about any sort of fame. Black Lives Matter is far larger than a hashtag, it’s a rallying cry. And until our cry is rightfully heard, protests will still happen and demands will still be made!”
As they had done during their previous two exhibitions, Heat players and coaches stood at attention for the anthem with their arms locked.
Heat forward Derrick Williams posted a photo of Lawrence on Instagram with the caption, “Very brave. Very courageous. Amazing voice.”
Following the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he noticed the singer’s approach at the end of the anthem.
“Throughout all of this I think the most important thing that has come out is very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We’ve had dialogue within our walls here. And hopefully this will lead to action.”