Heat's Meyers Leonard stands for anthem with teammates' support

The Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets tipped off for their first game of the NBA restart on Saturday, and during their pregame show of unity, one player stood for the national anthem.

Meyers Leonard, wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, stood for the anthem with his hand over his heart. When it was over, he fist bumped with his teammates, who appeared to support his decision.

Leonard is the second player to stand for the anthem. Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic stood on Friday, without wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

Why did Meyers Leonard stand?

Before the game began, Leonard explained his decision to stand to the Associated Press. He’s a big supporter of the military, as his brother, Bailey Leonard, served two tours in Afghanistan. (There was even a segment about Meyers’ and Bailey’s relationship on the Big Ten Network back in 2012.) But he “absolutely” supports the Black Lives Matter movement. He spent days (and several sleepless nights) thinking about whether he would stand or kneel.

“Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told the Associated Press prior to the game. “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.”

In the end, Leonard decided to stand. But he wanted to make it clear that his decision to stand doesn’t mean he’s not an ally and supporter.

“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people,” Leonard said. “I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into Black and white. There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true.

“I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone,” he added. “I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”

Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat stands for the national anthem while his teammates kneel.
Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat was the only player to stand for the anthem before facing the Nuggets on Saturday. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

‘To me, it is’ about the military

Leonard expounded on his beliefs after the game

“I understand this is not about the flag and the military,” Leonard said, per ESPN’s Marc Spears. “Based on real life experiences and real raw emotion that I’ve had in my life, that is what that means to me.

“And I’m hopeful that people that don’t know me can either learn or ask. I did in my heart what was right to me.”

Heat captain supports Leonard

Heat captain Udonis Haslem originally wanted Leonard to kneel, but in his conversations with Leonard, he said he understood why Leonard was standing and vowed that he and the rest of the Heat would support him.

“His being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,” Haslem told the AP. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t he doing it their way?’ Well, he’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.”

Leonard has also been impacted by his conversations with Haslem, and their overall relationship. He and his wife will be donating $100,000 to two organizations that helps Florida residents leaving prison pay their fees so they can vote again.

“Because I’ve listened to Udonis and am constantly inspired by him, every single one of those dollars will go to Overtown and Liberty City, where he grew up,” Leonard said, talking about two of Miami’s historic Black neighborhoods. “Those two parts of Miami were most heavily impacted by COVID-19 and voter suppression.”

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