It started with players from the Minnesota Lynx. The players wore black warm-up shirts that read “Change Starts With Us: Justice & Accountability” on the front. On the back, the shirts had the names of Castile and Sterling alongside a Dallas Police Department emblem and Black Lives Matter logo.
Deadspin reported that the gesture was met with anger by some police officers, who left the arena during the game and took their names off a list to work future games, according to their union head.
The WNBA fined the those teams and their players for wearing the gear. All three teams were fined $5,000 and each player was fined $500 as the shirts violated the league's uniform policy, which requires that uniforms are not altered in any way.
That move ignited a firestorm. Players criticized the league — which is largely African-American — for punishing teams and players for social activism.
"Instead of the league taking a stance with us, where they tell us they appreciate our expressing our concerns like they did for Orlando, we're fighting against each other," Indiana Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings told The New York Times. She was referring to a move by the league in June: Every team was given shirts in support of the Orlando tragedy, which the players wore.
But the fines weren't enough to stop players. Liberty forward Tina Charles was named the WNBA Player of the Month after a game last week. She accepted the award with her team-branded warm-ups turned inside out.
Today, I decided to not be silent in the wake of the @wnba fines against @nyliberty, @indianafever & @phoenixmercury due to our support in the #BlackLivesMatter movement . Seventy percent of the @wnba players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the @wnba gives its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, Pride and other subject matters.
She wrote on Instagram, "Seventy percent of the @wnba players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the @wnba gives its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, Pride and other subject matters."
She added, "Given that the league will now be suspending play until August 26 for the Olympics, we plan to use this time to work with our players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public."