Despite occurring within the newly minted Golden 1 Center, Monday night’s debut preseason game for the Sacramento Kings wasn’t national news until Leah Tysse stepped onto the court.
The Bay Area recording artist and breast cancer survivor was invited to sing the national anthem for a Breast Cancer Awareness night. But Tysse dedicated her performance to a different issue when she took a knee while singing the lyrics “for the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
A white woman with cropped blond hair, Tysse’s impromptu gesture—borrowed from the playbook of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who continues to sit during the national anthem of NFL games—caught attendees off guard as very few photos of her act have materialized. The game was not televised, but instead available for viewing via a live-stream.
KCRA’s Dana Griffith was among the first to document the moment on Twitter.
— Dana Griffin (@KCRADana) October 11, 2016
Kings guard Garrett Temple was only a few feet away from Tysse when it happened. He told SN&R he’d probably have missed it if not for already have said his prayers—with eyes closed, during the Israeli national anthem, as the Kings were playing Israeli professional club Maccabi Haifa. He says he immediately nudged teammate Anthony Tolliver, who stood in arms with him during the anthem.
The interlocking of arms during the National Anthem has been a way for NBA players to join in what Kaepernick started without violating league rules.
“I wish I could’ve shaken her hand and told her thanks for standing up for that,” Temple said.
Tysse’s action gained attention late into Monday night and effectively benched the publicity-seeking efforts of a pro-Palestine activist group, which demonstrated the game outside the arena. Digital media outlets like Complex Sports and Bleacher Report picked it up Tuesday morning. Not long after, Tysse, who remained quiet on her intent with the act, released a statement on her Facebook artist page. It read, “I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability.”
She went onto say, “The sad reality is, as a white American I am bestowed a certain privilege in this nation that is not enjoyed by all people. Black families are having much different conversations with their children about how to interact with the police than white families. Let’s be honest. Until we can recognize that white privilege exists we cannot have a dialogue about race.”
It took Tysse nearly 17 hours to comment on her display. Not all of the Facebook comments were positive. Most of her retweets from Monday night simply replied, “That was me!” Her Facebook post does not include hashtags for #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter.
But Temple says he doesn’t doubt her intent. He and a trainer expressed surprise, saying “she’s with us.”
“Four months ago, if she’d have done that, people would have asked what is she doing that for,” he said. “Because of the state we’re in socially, I already assumed that’s what it was for.”
Tysse declined to be interviewed. Before taking a knee, Tysse had fewer than 700 followers on Twitter. At the time of this post, she had amassed more than 900. Her Facebook page had 2,337 followers on Tuesday morning, which increased to 2,430 by the afternoon. The Facebook video on her artist page has over 13,000 views.