On Thursday, the WNBA fined the organizations and players of the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury for wearing black warmup shirts to express their concern about recent incidents of violence by and against police officers. As it happened, the only WNBA game on the schedule Thursday was a Liberty-Fever matchup, and after the game, players from both sides made it clear that they would not be deterred from speaking out on social issues.
In fact, the New York and Indiana players refused to take questions about basketball from media members in their respective locker rooms, expressing a willingness to discuss anything else. With her teammates assembled behind her, Liberty forward Swin Cash made a statement about the game, an 82-70 Fever win, and then Tanisha Wright stepped forward.
“We really feel like there’s still an issue here in America,” Wright said. “And we want to be able to use our platforms, we want to be able to use our voices, we don’t want to let anybody silence us in what we want to talk about. So you guys can ask away about anything that’s happening in society.
“It’s unfortunate that the WNBA has fined us and not supported its players.”
Meanwhile, Fever forward Tamika Catchings was affirming that her team “would not be answering any basketball questions.” Catchings, one of the league’s all-time greats, said that the media blackout was a “group effort” and not the idea of any one particular player.
“I think, no matter what our success is on the court, basketball is just that, it’s just basketball, and there’s a whole other world outside of that, and it’s way more important than what we do,” Catchings said. She also referenced calls by Carmelo Anthony and other NBA players for their fellow athletes to speak out.
Fever forward Devereaux Peters said in an Instagram post Thursday, “We won’t be silenced.” She added, “People must understand that Black Lives Matter has nothing to do with being more important than any other race, and ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT SUPPORT KILLING COPS.”
We won't be silenced on an issue that so many players in the league identify with. The league should not be able to pick and choose what causes it allows to be supported and what won't. We as players know that the platform we have can not only raise awareness but also create dialogue and understanding, and we plan to use it. This is a very uncomfortable conversation, but it is one that NEEDS to be had. People must understand that Black Lives Matter has nothing to do with being more important than any other race, and ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT SUPPORT KILLING COPS. It has to do with the fact that black lives are being undervalued to the point that we are being killed at an alarming rate, without consequence. So have the conversation, get uncomfortable, but most importantly BE THE CHANGE
Liberty forward Tina Charles was given the WNBA’s player of the month award Thursday, and she accepted it with her official warmup shirt inside-out, thus resembling a black shirt. “After seeing the African-American male shot three times after helping an autistic person out this morning in Florida, I knew I couldn’t be silent,” Charles said after Thursday’s game (via ESPN). “Knowing the player I am representing this organization, if anybody was going to wear it, it had to be me. I have no problem wearing this shirt inside out for the rest of the season until we are able to have the WNBA support us.”
“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,” Charles explained in an Instagram post.
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.
A perceived discrepancy between the WNBA’s response to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, when the league applauded its players’ response — even distributing commemorative shirts — and its reaction to the black shirts was noted by some other players on social media.
— Mistie Bass (@A_Phoenix_Born) July 21, 2016
“We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines,” league president Lisa Borders told the Associated Press on Wednesday.