Freedom of speech isn’t so free when it comes to black people using their influence to take a stand for social justice. Singer Sevyn Streeter found that out last night as she shared that she was banned from singing the National Anthem at the Philadelphia 76ers game verses the Oklahoma Thunder Wednesday night simply because she was wearing a jersey with the words “We Matter” on it.
Rather than comment on the decision to replace Sevyn’s rendition of the National Anthem with that of one of their dancers, the 76ers simply said in a statement:
“The Philadelphia 76ers organization encourages meaningful actions to drive social change. We use our games to bring people together, to build trust and to strengthen our communities. As we move from symbolic gestures to action, we will continue to leverage our platform to positively impact our community.”
A spokesperson for the NBA told ESPN instead of commenting they’ll defer to the Sixers’ statement regarding the incident.
The choice to stop Sevyn’s appearance over her shirt is an odd one considering the other displays of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement seen at basketball games recently.
Just last week, Denasia Lawrence kneeled while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt as she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the last NBA preseason game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. The 24-year-old Patterson, NJ, native who now resides in Florida told SB Nation, “As soon as I got the opportunity set in stone, I knew what I would do. I wanted to ignite something in somebody. I wanted to spark dialogue. Honestly, I wanted to make people uncomfortable so that we could continue to talk about what’s really going on. Yes, I knelt while singing an oppressive, racist anthem that is non-inclusive of people who look like me, and the two actions (singing and kneeling) can coexist.”
Aside from “the glares, the general confusion, the yells and whispers,” Lawrence didn’t indicate anyone at any time threatened to pull her from her slot because of her apparel or her action and neither has Leah Tysse, the white woman who kneeled as she sung during the Sacramento Kings’ preseason game October 10.
In lieu of any real explanation, we’ll have to speculate that, perhaps, Sevyn’s fame and the fact that this was the opening game of the season are what led the Sixers to make the unfortunate choice that they did.