Singer pulled from NBA national anthem performance because of “We Matter” jersey

Sevyn Streeter was scheduled to sing the national anthem Wednesday night at the 76ers game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was told just before she went out onto the court that her performance was cancelled, she told the Associated Press. The R&B singer claims she couldn’t perform because of the “We Matter” jersey she was wearing and posted a video on Twitter showing off the apparently controversial shirt. “I’d say two minutes before we were about to walk out … the organization told me that I could not wear my shirt while singing the national anthem at their game,” she told the AP.

“I was never given any kind of dress code. I was never asked beforehand to show my wardrobe,” she explained. The Sixers haven’t commented on why Streeter’s performance was shut down, but said in a statement to ESPN, “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.” The NBA did not immediately return The Frisky’s request for comment.

Athletes started bringing subtle and not-so-subtle Black Lives Matter protests into the sports world a few months ago, usually with consequences — from Colin Kaepernick’s demonstration during the national anthem (which made him a national target for “patriotic” hate mail) to WNBA players wearing BLM shirts (which resulted in them being fined).

Last Friday night at a Miami Heat preseason game against the 76ers, singer Denasia Lawrence wore a BLM shirt and kneeled while singing the national anthem, taking a cue from Kaepernick. But unlike Streeter, she wasn’t shut down. In an op-ed for SB Nation, Lawrence explained why she took a knee, writing:

I sang because I am American. I sang because I want those same freedoms for black people that were supposed to be endowed to all of us by our creator. Despite the systemic racism that goes on in America, my ancestors helped build and shape this country. We belong here.”

So, maybe the Sixers saw Streeter’s shirt and didn’t want to deal with yet another (peaceful) BLM demonstration at one of their games.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” has caught on as an important symbol because it represents the country (and all its racism) and because it’s sung at literally every professional sporting event, making it a consistent time to point out problems with the country the song’s praising. Now the actions against police brutality at games has spread to performers, and national sports organizations don’t seem too happy about.