The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat knelt for the national anthem Wednesday night. The teams said 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 that night’s games.
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 teams’ statement said, in part: “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 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 within the bubble at 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.”
Meanwhile, a men’s college basketball game scheduled to be played in Washington on Wednesday night was postponed after a city curfew was imposed in response to the mob’s actions at the Capitol.
The Atlantic 10 Conference game between George Washington and UMass will be rescheduled by the league, GW announced.
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.