MIAMI — The Miami Heat’s support of the Parkland community in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School continued Sunday.
Wearing “Parkland Strong” T-shirts, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and players Hassan Whiteside, Rodney McGruder, Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington made an appearance at the Parkland Rec League basketball championship. The team’s public-address announcer Michael Baiamonte and mascot Burnie were also at the event.
In addition to dedicating their time on an off day after returning from a West Coast trip on Saturday, the Heat created scholarships in the names of victims Joaquin Oliver, Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, and Heat sponsor Ultimate Software presented a $500,000 check to the Broward Education Foundation.
“This tragedy hit the whole South Florida community,” Spoelstra said in advance of Monday’s home game against the Nuggets. “When we mentioned a few weeks ago that our hearts are really with all the families, the kids, the teachers, the administration up in Parkland, we just want to let them know we’re here for them. Our best way to show that is just to be there not only in spirit, but physically. Because it’s not going away and the emotions are not going away. We are so very inspired by the actions the kids are taking and we want to help those microphones and megaphones get bigger and louder to create change.”
Spoelstra helped coach one of the teams playing for the Rec League championship, but ended up on the losing side.
“Yesterday was a very special day because we were able to spend time with the families who lost their sons,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t even imagine or relate and we just wanted to be there with the Hoyers, Schachter and Olivers. Manny [Joaquin’s father] was actually coaching the team Joaquin played on and they won the championship. I was one of the assistant coaches, honorary coaches on the other team. … We just wanted to show them we were there for them — especially as time goes on and the pain doesn’t go away. The more support they can get we’ll provide that.”
For Ellington, who was affected by gun violence when his father Wayne Ellington Sr. was shot and found dead in Philadelphia in 2014, the Parkland visit was especially meaningful.
“It hit me personally in a spot where I got pretty emotional at certain points,” Ellington said. “Just seeing some of the parents and understanding that smile that they’re putting on, there’s a lot of hurt and there’s a lot of maybe anger and there’s a lot of uncertainty. A lot of emotions that they have going on inside of them. I was just glad that we were able to come and put a smile on their faces for a few minutes in that little moment of our day. That felt good to be able to do that.”
This is just a continuation of the Heat’s support following the shooting, as Dwyane Wade made a surprise visit to the school on March 7. And members of the Heat organization have visited with impacted families, while also hosting members of the Parkland community on game nights at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, have donated $200,000 to help students from his hometown of Chicago join this upcoming Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in Washington. Wade also honored the victims of the shooting with his Wynwood warehouse tribute.
The Heat are playing with a “MSD” patch on the left shoulder of their uniforms for the remainder of the season.