D'Angelo: Heat, Celtics emotional following storming of Capitol Building: 'Just imagine if Black people did that'

Events in D.C., Kenosha hit home

Tom D'Angelo
Palm Beach Post
Miami Heat and Boston Celtics players kneel during the national anthem before Wednesday's game at American Airlines Arena.

NBA players have proven over and over they will not be muzzled. They continue to show they are part of the most progressive, socially conscious sports league in the world.

They will use their platform.

Once again, on Wednesday, they spoke passionately on two issues that hit home in a league that is more than 80 percent Black.

“There are two split, different Americas. In one America, you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your backyard. In another America, you get to storm the Capitol ... no massive arrests, none of that.” – Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown.

On Tuesday, a Kenosha, Wis., prosecutor declined to bring charges against the white police officer who shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back. Blake was gravely wounded. That case, along with the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Blacks by law enforcement officers became a flashpoint for a summer of unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Among those with the loudest voices speaking out against social injustices were NBA players, who boycotted games after the season resumed following the four-month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Less than 24 hours after the news from Wisconsin, rioters incited by President Trump and emboldened by his debunked claims of a fraudulent and rigged election stormed the U.S. Capitol, breaching the halls and chambers, seeking out lawmakers who were voting to certify the election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. Many were waving Trump or Confederate flags, some were carrying weapons. Shots were fired inside the building. One woman was killed.

The domestic terrorists never met resistance. Few were arrested. A secure plan never was in place even after Trump tweeted weeks ago the day "will be wild." 

That was not lost on players who watched law enforcement and National Guardsmen deployed by the hundreds in our streets during the summer before social injustice protests started.

“Everyone knows what’s going on in the world,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. “You can’t hide from that. We see the two different USAs that we live in. It’s sad, it truly is. … “Everybody sees it. Everyone knows it now. You can’t say that you don’t understand it.” 

Those heartfelt and necessary comments by Brown, Butler and others came following Boston’s 107-105 victory in Miami on Wednesday night. The teams considered postponing the game before deciding to release a joint statement, explaining that although it’s a “new year … some things have not changed.” They opted to play to “try to bring joy” into people’s lives.

“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 drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protesters who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.” 

Later, players and staff from both teams, with the exception of Miami’s Meyers Leonard, knelt with their heads bowed for the national anthem. Leonard explained on social media he “stands” for the same reasons his peers kneel: For those who served our country, against the violence and riots in Washington, in solidarity with his teammates and against bigotry, racism and hate.

Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard (0) stands while teammates kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to the game against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday at American Airlines Arena. [Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports]

The NBA was at the fore of one of the most historic days in our nation’s sports history Aug. 26 when, led by the Milwaukee Bucks, every team decided to boycott games for the next few days. That was followed by several other leagues deciding not to take the field, or the court, or the ice.

That week, players and coaches from the NBA made sure names such as Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake were not forgotten during their postgame news conferences.

What they saw Wednesday showed that not much changed in four months. Video of law enforcement opening gates to allow rioters easy access, posing for selfies with those who just broke the law, assisting at least one of them down the Capitol steps after the invasion.

This had NBA players and others wondering what would have happened if the mob descending on a Capitol packed with lawmakers, staff members and others were Black?

“They get to go in … they’re taking pictures, taking items," Heat center Bam Adebayo said. "Just imagine if Black people did that. That’s frustrating. Like I always say, we just want to be treated equally. Today, that wasn’t equal at all. That showed what it was.”

The NBA played all 11 games Wednesday. The Washington Wizards, whose game certainly would have been postponed it if was at home, were in Philadelphia. The Wizards' next home game, at Capital One Arena, less than a mile from the Capitol, is Saturday night against the Heat. 

Adebayo said he will not leave his room except to go to the arena.

“I’m an African American man. I got to live with that. I have to be cautious everywhere I go,” he said. “You never know who’s going to be the deciding person to be like, ‘I’m going to ruin his life today.’

“Being an African American man in this world, you can tell there’s two Americas we’re living in. They don’t want us to be equal. We’re going to keep fighting that. I still wear my shirts. It’s not going to change. We’re just looking for change and equality, man. We’re not asking for anything else.

"We just want to be treated like people. They’re treating us like we’re nothing."