On Saturday, the Toronto Raptors played the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series. Teams warmed up and the anthems began. It appeared to start like any game except for the noticeable odd behaviour shown by guard Dwyane Wade, a thirteen-year veteran of the Heat. (He was one of my favourite seasoned players so this isn’t a “let’s hate on DW” post.) Although the stadium wasn’t as quiet as the Air Canada Centre usually is and the bleacher lights not dimmed so that everyone could focus on the floor, the main point was clear. People were standing and a young lady was singing the anthem. Superstar Wade kept shooting the ball while his teammates stood still.
He said it was his pre-game ritual and he’d keep shooting to make his final shot (regardless of which anthem was on). That’s probably not the best example to set for hundreds of kids who still look up to him. The NBA player conduct rules clearly state, “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.” Not sure why he has an exception. Wade himself even said that whenever a Canadian team (the Raptors are the ONLY Canadian team in the NBA) comes to play, the anthems are played twelve minutes earlier. Hence, knowing this (and Raptors have existed since 1995), wouldn’t he just come out a bit earlier to do his warm-up?
I’ve always thought Wade was a great player. I’ve always liked his attitude, his leadership, his game, heck, even his wife! (Gabrielle Union is the star of my current go-to BET show, “Being Mary Jane”.) I don’t, however, like his poor judgment in this situation. Clearly, he didn’t think of how many Canadians (and others) he could offend with his little pre-game ritual. (Doesn’t he remember that Dr. James A. Naismith who invented the game of basketball was Canadian? C’mon, man.) It didn’t seem odd to him that thousands removed their hats and stood still while he’s running around the court shooting and getting his own rebounds? (He missed several shots.)
Just like in school, I guess I’m used to stopping everything when an anthem starts. It’s not something I have to force or be extremely conscious of. After so many years of being a student and now teacher, it’s just automatic. When those first few notes sound over the PA system, I stop, mid-sentence at times. I don’t take attendance or chat with colleagues. I don’t sign forms, collect money, or even take a drink. Students know they don’t rush to class to avoid getting that late slip (though some try to inch their way down the hall)- they simply FREEZE. Dwyane Wade may have a B+ lifetime shooting percentage, but he needs some basic tutelage in anthem conduct. Anthem begins, you stand at attention. That’s it. His own pre-game ritual or not – some basic respect is more important than superstition.
** On Monday night (Game 4), DW stood at attention when the anthems were played. In fact, he was one of the first to line up. He had yet to apologize for his pre-game routine when Game 4 began. The series goes back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday, 2-2. The Raptors lost a heartbreaker in the third overtime game of this series, 94-87.