Hours after his release from prison on Tuesday, rapper Meek Mill arrived at the Philadelphia 76ers‘ playoff game.
Mill entered the arena about 45 minutes before tipoff and greeted some Sixers players in the home locker room, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reported.
Wearing a Joel Embiid jersey, Mill rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff of Game 5 against the Miami Heat. He received a thunderous ovation from the Wells Fargo Center crowd upon introduction and was seated courtside, next to comedian Kevin Hart and Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin.
The Philadelphia-born rapper, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, had been fighting for his release while appealing a two- to four-year sentence for a probation violation.
His controversial incarceration has drawn response from the sports community.
Rubin has been one of Mill’s biggest supporters. He tweeted Tuesday that he was on his way to pick up the rapper from prison, a commute that also involved a helicopter.
Said Mill on Twitter:
“I’d like to thank God, my family, and all my public advocates for their love, support and encouragement during this difficult time. While the past five months have been a nightmare, the prayers, visits, calls, letters and rallies have helped me stay positive.
“To the Philly District Attorney’s office, I’m grateful for your commitment to justice. I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues.
“In the meantime, I plan to work closely with my legal team to overturn this unwarranted conviction and look forward to reuniting with my family and resuming my music career.”
“I’m glad he’s out,” Simmons said prior to Game 5, while noting how much Mill means to the 76ers team as well as the city of Philadelphia.
Members of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles also championed Mill’s cause. Some players declared Mill’s song “Dreams and Nightmares” as the club’s unofficial anthem during their run to the Super Bowl.
Mill, a South Philadelphia native, had attended Sixers games regularly before going to prison.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited Mill at a state prison in Pennsylvania earlier this month and later called for criminal justice reform.
“It’s really bad. I know some of our players in the NFL have talked about this. I see it firsthand. It’s just wrong,” Kraft said then. “We have to find a way to correct it and also help the community help themselves. It’s just sad. This guy is a great guy. Shouldn’t be here. And then think of all the taxpayers here paying for people like this to be in jail and not out being productive.”
The Patriots tweeted reaction to the news.
Mill was jailed in November 2017 for violating his probation by failing a drug test, traveling out of the region and getting arrested for fighting and other related offenses. A team of lawyers and public relations consultants had waged a battle to get Mill freed on bail ever since.
Prosecutors say they believe Mill should get a new trial because of questions raised about the credibility of the officer in his 2007 arrest.