October 28, 2016 / 6:02 PM / 2 years ago

Sixers apologize for booting 'We Matter' anthem singer

FILE PHOTO - Singer Sevyn Streeter attends Essence Magazine's 5th Annual Black Women in Music reception in West Hollywood, California January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

(Reuters) - The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers apologized on Friday for a last-minute decision to deny a recording artist from singing the U.S. national anthem at their season opener this week because she was wearing a “We Matter” jersey.

Sevyn Streeter said the team told her only moments before she was scheduled to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” that she could not take the court because of her shirt. A member of the 76ers’ dance team went on to sing the anthem.

“We are sorry that this happened. After receiving feedback from our players, basketball operations staff and ownership group, we believe that the wrong decision was made, and Sevyn should have been welcomed to sing,” the Sixers said in a statement.

“We apologize to her, and in an effort to move the conversation forward, we have reached out to offer her an opportunity to return and perform at a game of her choice. We are waiting to hear back.”

The Sixers initially declined to say why Streeter did not perform on Wednesday, saying only that the team encourages meaningful actions to drive social change.

“We use our games to bring people together, to build trust and to strengthen our communities,” the team said in a separate statement. “As we move from symbolic gestures to action, we will continue to leverage our platform to positively impact our community.”

Last week ahead of a preseason game between the Sixers and host Miami Heat, a woman performing the national anthem did so while kneeling at center court with a “Black Lives Matter” shirt underneath an opened jacket.

Protests during the national anthem have been a hot-button issue in recent months, starting with the decision by National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing.

Kaepernick has cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and many athletes from other sports have since followed his lead in various ways, including linking arms during the anthem.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Both

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