Miami Heat players, coaches discuss their emotional tour through the African American History and Culture museum

PHILADELPHIA — Before flying to the next stop on their four-game road trip, the Heat took time to learn a history lesson Sunday.

The entire Heat team visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Sunday before traveling to Philadelphia in the afternoon. Players and coaches took an emotional tour through the museum that lasted about three hours.

Photo from the Heat's visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Photo from Miami Heat)

Photo from the Heat’s visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Photo from Miami Heat)

“It was very moving,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Monday’s shootaround session. “Especially the first hour and a half. I thought our museum hosts were phenomenal. They were true historians and they took us back all the way to the beginning from Africa to the slave ships coming over to slavery all the way to the Civil Rights (Movement) to where we are right now. Obviously there’s been progress, but not enough. It was a very emotional experience for a lot of us and I’m glad we did it.”

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Udonis Haslem and Justise Winslow singled out the Emmett Till exhibit as the one that touched them the most. Till was a 14-year-old African American who was murdered for flirting with a white woman in 1955.

“His mother used that to bring awareness and it really just inspired other people to start taking action,” Winslow said of the Till exhibit. “That was one of the biggest things. It was an emotional story and a sad story. I think a lot of good came out of it, as far as getting the black community aware and people starting to really take a stand. It was emotional.”

Haslem was surprised to see a Miami neighborhood he’s familiar with included in the museum. A picture that mentions Overtown is part of the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the museum since the boxer lived in Overtown when he trained in Miami early in his career.

Haslem, a Miami native, took a photo next to the Overtown sign in the museum.

“I was excited about it. I knew Muhammad Ali spent some time in Miami and in Overtown,” Haslem said. “But I didn’t know that the picture in that exhibit actually made the museum. That was big for me. I was excited about it, obviously. I took a picture next to it. So that’s something I’ll always keep.”

This isn’t the first time the Heat have visited a museum on an off day during the season. After meeting with President Barack Obama as part of a Miami Heat NBA championship commemoration in Washington in 2014, the Heat also took a team trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“When you have opportunities to do something like that, I think it’s a no-brainer,” Spoelstra said. “Really it had nothing to do with our team or basketball, it’s a life experience and it’s a great thing for everybody to be there together to learn and understand real American history.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture made headlines last week when LeBron James announced he will donate $2.5 million to support the Muhammad Ali exhibit.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s website, it’s the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

“I hadn’t seen pictures or anything, so I didn’t know really what to expect,” Winslow said of the museum. “But it was nice. It’s a huge building. It’s only going to get better. I think a big thing is going to be people going there and wanting to donate money or different items.”

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