| Sat Oct 22, 2016 | 10:54am EDT Singer kneels while performing anthem at Miami NBA game Oct 21, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; National Anthem singer Denasia Lawrence kneels as she sings the anthem prior to the game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports By Joseph Ax | NEW YORK NEW YORK A singer knelt while performing the national anthem at a Miami Heat basketball game on Friday and opened her jacket to reveal a shirt that read "Black Lives Matter," a variation on a protest that has punctuated many U.S. sporting events since the summer. Like other anthem protests, the gesture by Denasia Lawrence was intended to highlight what activists say is unfair police treatment of minorities. The trend began in August when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before a preseason National Football League game. Lawrence, a social worker, wrote on Facebook that the opportunity at the preseason Heat game "was bigger than me." "Right now, we're seeing a war on Black & Brown bodies - we're being unjustly killed and overly criminalized," she continued. "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." In a statement, the Heat said, "We were unaware of it ahead of time." Lawrence was not the first anthem singer to take a knee. Leah Tysse knelt while singing before a preseason Sacramento Kings game two weeks ago. Kaepernick's silent protest ignited a fierce national debate over whether refusing to stand during the anthem is disrespectful to the country and its military or a political expression that goes to the heart of the U.S.
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