“Welcome home Meek Mill,” the public announcer said at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, The Associated Press reported. Cheers erupted from the crowd and Meek walked out onto the court to ring a Liberty bell Replica with fellow Philadelphian Kevin Hart. The comedian and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin had visited Meek in prison earlier Tuesday, hours before his release.
“Mill being here tonight was amazing, but him being here tonight was bigger than the Sixers,” Hart told WPVI after the game. “It was more about getting out, beating something that was incorrect and now having the opportunity to stand in front of that incorrection and correct it. It's about saying, OK guys, look, in the system that we have today in Philadelphia and everywhere else there’s a lot of injustice, and now we have the opportunity to poke holes in that injustice and shine a light on it and hopefully correct it. I think he’s going to take full advantage of his opportunity, his platform, the pedestal that he stands on, and really draw more attention to it and hopefully make other people look at it in a way that we can start to change it.”
Hart added that Meek, whose birth name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was at the game with his son, 7-year-old Papi.
“I’m glad that my friend, my brother got out tonight. More importantly, he got to be with his family -- his son,” Hart said. “His son was there on the sideline with him. So the Sixers winning is a great moment, it's a highlight. For him, his son, that's the best thing about today. As soon as he got out, the first thing he did was call his son. ‘Get him here. Get him down here.’ They flew him straight to the game. He got his son there. His family, his mother. That’s ultimately what it’s about.”
In a statement issued after his release was announced, Meek said that he would use his platform to bring attention to people of color in the justice system. The 30-year-old rapper served five months in prison for violating probation on a drug and weapons conviction when he was 21. His release was celebrated by not only Hart and many in Philadelphia, but celebrities like JAY-Z -- who initially criticized Meek’s sentencing -- Rihanna, T.I., Rick Ross and QuestLove.
“Today, Meek Mill, a son of Philadelphia, is a free man,” JAY-Z said in a statement Tuesday. “He was incarcerated unjustly and caught in a probation trap for years by a broken system. Now we can celebrate his release. We thank every individual that has supported and fought alongside Meek every step of the way.”
The 76ers won 104-91 against The Heat.
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