One Lone Player Stands for the Anthem as NBA Finals Get Underway


With the NBA Finals now underway in the Orlando bubble, the league is down to its final two teams, and apparently its last player willing to stand for the American flag.

During Wednesday’s Game 1 matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, every single player on both teams, minus one man, appeared to kneel during the national anthem.

The Lakers won the game in a 116-98 blowout fueled by the play of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but a chance for unity, and a mutual showing of respect for the greatest country in the world, was lost.

The game was as divisive as any since the league restarted late in the summer after being suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The league has been taken over by leftist politics and racial rhetoric which is built on a perception that the country is inherently racist.

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The millionaires have continually shown us, as they did Wednesday, how oppressed they feel they are.

But one player refused to kneel to the Black Lives Matter political mob’s politics regarding the American flag Wednesday.

Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard appeared to be the only player from either team to stand during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

He was joined by NBA referee Kane Fitzgerald, who also stood several feet away.

Photos of Leonard honoring his country circulated on social media.

The seven-foot-tall center did not play in the lopsided loss for his team, but he won in the capacity that he did not fold to the league’s groupthink.

Leonard previously described to The Associated Press how challenging it has been to stand alone for the flag and anthem.

The player, who is originally from Virginia, has a brother who served in combat in Afghanistan and calls a number of military veterans friends.

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He also believe the lives of black people matter, and he does wear a Black Lives Matter shirt prior to games.

But the 28-year-old will not bow to peer pressure with regard to kneeling.

“Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told the AP in August when he initially decided not to kneel alongside his teammates during the anthem.

“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,” he added.

Leonard continued, “I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people.”

“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 continued.

“I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”

That was in August, when Leonard was not the only one in the league standing for the anthem.

As his team has reached the pinnacle of the sport, the NBA Finals, apparently Leonard has decided to stand alone.

Before the season was suspended for four months in March, and before he suffered an ankle injury in February, Leonard was his team’s starting center, CBS Sports reported.

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The player was ready to come back by late April, but played insignificant minutes at the beginning of the season restart.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra benched him in August, telling the South Florida Sun Sentinel, “The goal is bigger than the role right now” with regard to sidelining Leonard and another player, guard Kendrick Nunn.

Nunn played in Wednesday’s game, while Leonard did not.

It’s not possible to know if Leonard’s benching is in anyway related to his decision not to kneel.

But the team is arguably better against the Lakers with him in the rotation, so his absence on the court is a head-scratcher.

On Dec. 13 of last year, the Heat lost to the Lakers in a nail-biting 113-110 game in which Leonard started and played 14 minutes, according to the game’s box score.

For now, Leonard’s only role in games is to show up and ride the bench.

When he does, he towers at seven feet tall for his country’s flag, even if he has to do it alone.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.