WNBA Players Take A Stand For #BlackLivesMatter

Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images.
After the deadly shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, players in the WNBA decided to take a stand by wearing all black in protest.

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 response did little the quell protest from WNBA players who said they wanted to use their voices to speak out about police brutality. Members of the Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty, and Indiana Fever also began wearing black warm-up shirts in protest.

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.
"We were okay with that, we wanted to support that, but also they can't pick and choose what initiatives to support and what not to support just because it doesn't push their agenda," Liberty guard Tanisha Wright told The New York Times.

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.

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."
On Saturday, the WNBA announced that it would withdraw its fines against teams and players, according to The Associated Press. WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement, "While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address important societal issues."

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."

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