Nov. 20, 2016
76ers Cancel National Anthem Performer over Controversial T-Shirt
The year 2016 in sports can be summed up in one word; protest. Athletes and teams across the country have utilized their platform to protest against racial injustices across America. Colin Kapernick is considered the pilot of these protests, but many others have taken his idea and put their twist on it.
One of these twists is the use of message T-Shirts, as we saw with Cam Newton during pre-game warm-ups, and then most recently with R&B Singer Sevyn Streeter. When worn by people of high status, these shirts gain a lot of attention and get people talking.
However, while there are many who support these protests and the messages behind them, there are others who want no part of it.
That is the case with the Philadelphia 76ers organization, who cancelled Sevyn Streeter’s National Anthem performance before their season opening game. The consensus reasoning for this cancellation was the shirt that Streeter was wearing prior to her performance. The shirt, as seen in the image below, reads “We matter.”
The message itself is somewhat vague as viewers could wonder who “we” is, but the vast majority of the public understood that the “we” meant Black Lives since Streeter is a member of the African American community.
Streeter met with the media after the incident and was asked about what happened. In her statement, Streeter mentioned that she was about to go out onto the court when the 76ers stopped her and told her at the last minute that she needed to change her shirt. Streeter claims that, before that night, she was never given a dress code for her performance, but an ESPN source said she did have to sign a contract as required of all 76ers performers. The contract lists out what the organization allows of their performers, and therefore gives them the right to pull a performance if one of these allowances is not met. It is believed that political statements are not one of the allowances, and so Streeter’s performance was dropped. Apparently another shirt was offered to her but she refused to change. The full details of the contract can be found in this ESPN article.
The 76ers organization was quick to release their own statement about what took place, but did not openly state the reason they cut Streeter’s performance. In their statement, the 76ers mentioned that they understand and support actions for social change, but reserve the right to prevent any gestures they cannot fully agree with. The full statement can be found in the following Washington Post article.
Streeter’s statement with the media went on, in which she discussed her displeasure and disappointment with the organization’s decision. She said that the decision to cut her performance deeply upset her because she was looking forward to the chance to send a powerful message and express her feelings on the injustice in America. Her full statement on how she felt about not being allowed to sing can be found in the following Associated Press article.
Upon learning of her displeasure with the cancelled performance, the 76ers released another statement, but this time of apology. Outside of saying they were sorry, the 76ers stated that they have tried to reach out to Streeter about the possibility of her coming back for another performance later in the season.
Regardless of whether or not they apologized, the 76ers were in the wrong and their players, as well as members of the media, did not shy away from voicing their opinions. 76er Gerald Henderson said that he noticed a different singer coming out onto the court, but didn’t know what was going on. Afterwards, once he learned of the situation, Henderson mentioned that he knows a lot is going on in the community and that there are people who are very passionate about expressing their displeasure, which he has no problem with. Another 76er’s player, Robert Covington, spoke out for himself and some of the other players and said that everyone was upset about what happened and that they wanted to do something about it.
Shortly after its occurrence, this story made its way onto the ESPN show UNDISPUTED as a main talking point. During the 5-minute discussion, Shannon Sharpe and Chris Broussard talked about the 76ers decision from a variety of perspectives, but in the end both came to the agreement that the organization made the wrong choice by cancelling Streeter’s performance. The full video can be viewed in the following link.
While Sevyn Streeter may have signed a contract that stated she wasn’t allowed to make political statements, the Philadelphia 76ers were still in the wrong for the decision they made. As Chris Broussard mentions in the UNDISPUTED video, her shirt simply stated “We matter.” That statement is very vague and could have applied to anyone and everyone in the arena. Also, in today’s society, people need to be allowed to express their opinions and beliefs, especially if it is in a peaceful way. Peaceful expression is what helps to bring about change because then other people get behind the movement and push it forward. Broussard also mentioned a solution to this issue, and I agree with it completely. Streeter should be invited back to sing, as the 76ers are attempting to do, but she should be allowed to wear the same shirt. The 76ers should also make those shirts for the fans and give them out to wear.
The 76ers have to realize that in today’s time, you draw more attention to yourself when you go against a protest, because, as mentioned earlier, that is what this year is about; protest.