NBA Player Who Stood During Anthem Says He Doesn't Understand How World Turned Into 'Black and White'

Miami Heat power forward-center Meyers Leonard explained his reasoning for standing during the National Anthem at the Heat's re-opening game Saturday, as his teammates kneeled. Speaking about supporting his teammates' protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during an Associated Press interview prior to the game, Leonard said that he didn't understand how the world "turned into Black and white."

Another day of kneeling. Miami’s Meyers Leonard stands and puts hand over his heart, while wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirts. Fist bumps teammates afterwards

— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) August 1, 2020

Leonard said that standing for "The Star Spangled Banner" was very much informed by the fact that his brother is a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan. He said that while he believes in the Black Lives Matter movement that his fellow teammates are kneeling for, his gesture does not show a lack of support for the movement.

"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 said. Leonard also wore the same Black Lives Matter T-shirt that the rest of his team wore.

Leonard said that a text from his brother showed him that he was proud of him. "And if he's proud of me, and if my brothers on this team are with me, then I know this is what I have to do," he said.

Following difficult conversations with his teammates, he said that he would stand, but would continue to try to make a positive impact for the movement. "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," he said. "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."

As demonstrated by the fist bumps after the anthem concluded, Leonard's teammates showed support for his decision to stand. Teammate Andre Iguodala told AP that he "can see where [Leonard] is coming from."

Heat captain Udonis Haslem said he was still showing support, regardless of what other people think. "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," he told AP.

Leonard isn't the first player to stand for the anthem since the NBA has restarted. Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac also stood for the anthem and did not wear the Black Lives Matter shirt that other players have worn. Isaac cited religious reasons in a long response at a press conference—after he said that while he believes that Black lives do matter, he didn't think that wearing the shirt and kneeling supported Black lives.

I asked Jonathan Isaac two questions:

You didn’t kneel during the anthem but you also didn’t wear a black lives matter shirt. Do you believe black lives matter?

Can you explain what religion has to do with kneeling for the anthem to protest against racism and police brutality?

— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) July 31, 2020

When asked further how religion was connected to Black Lives Matter, he responded: "I don't think that kneeling or putting on a T-shirt, for me personally, is the answer. For me, Black lives are supported through the Gospel."

Leonard's agents did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Meyers Leonard
Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat stands during the National Anthem before the start of a game against the Denver Nuggets at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 01, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Getty/Kevin C. Cox