‘Beyond disheartening’: Suns broadcaster Leander proud of daughter’s stand at stay-at-home protest

Banner University Medical Center ICU nurse Lauren Leander, the daughter of Suns broadcaster Tom, found herself in the national spotlight after attending a protest at the Arizona Capitol. (Photo courtesy Michael Chow/Arizona Republic)

PHOENIX – Phoenix Suns broadcaster Tom Leander said he’s proud his daughter, an intensive-care nurse, stood up to demonstrators protesting stay-at-home orders at the state Capitol this week.

In photos that have gone viral, Lauren Leander is seen in her scrubs silently facing down protesters who arrived at the Capitol to demand Gov. Doug Ducey rescind his order to shut down the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Derogatory comments were hurled at Leander as she stood silently near the protesters, arms crossed and face mask in place.

“As a father of a nurse who is putting her life on the line every day she goes out there and receives that kind of treatment is incredibly disheartening,” Tom Leander said. “It’s beyond disheartening. It’s vile, and it’s so inappropriate, and it’s not representative of what our country should be about.”

Lauren told the Arizona Republic, “Whether you believe in the virus or not, we’re the people who are going to take care of you one way or the other. It was disheartening to have those comments thrown in my face.”

Leander is an ICU nurse at Banner-University Medical Center-Phoenix, where she volunteered to work in the hospital’s coronavirus overflow unit. Leander and a few other nurses attended the rally and soon were targeted by protesters despite their silence.

“At the time, we weren’t nervous because we didn’t know how many people were going to be out there,” Tom Leander said. “Lauren has been just a mirror to reflect all the other health care workers, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists.”

See photos from the protest

As of Thursday, the state had 5,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,970 in Maricopa County, and 249 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

There have been similar protests against stay-at-home orders in Colorado, Michigan, California, Virginia and elsewhere.

“It’s very disappointing that it became a personal attack on Lauren and the other nurses that were there,” Tom Leander said.

Arizona’s stay-at-home order is scheduled to end April 30, and it’s not known whether Ducey will extend it in the interest of public health.

The protests have garnered mixed opinions. Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party and former state senator, tweeted Tuesday that the health care workers at protests were “actors playing parts.”

For Tom Leander, his daughter’s actions show her strong belief in keeping Arizonans safe.

“It’s never really been her personality to step out and receive any limelight,” he said. “It’s not who she is, and she’s unprepared for it, the onslaught of media requests and attention that’s been heaped on her. But it just goes to show that she felt so strongly about what she’s experiencing every day at work. No doubt, I’m very proud as a father of how she took a stand.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix