Several WNBA teams and their players were fined by the league after they wore warmups in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to honor the victims of a series of violent incidents, prompting a media blackout by the players.
Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (32) is greeted by Minnesota Lynx forward Natasha Howard (3) while starting lineups are announced at the Target Center on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio after four off-duty police officers walked away from security jobs at a Lynx game over the weekend because of the T-shirts. (Timothy Nwachukwu/Star Tribune via AP)
The WNBA on July 20 fined the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury $5,000 each, and fined the teams’ players $500 each, for noncompliance with the league’s uniform policy.
“We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for nonviolent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines,” WNBA president Lisa Borders said in a statement regarding the fines. Borders told the Associated Press the fines weren’t necessarily about the athletes taking a public stand on social issues.
Members of the New York Liberty basketball team stand during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner prior to a game against the Atlanta Dream, Wednesday, July 13, 2016 in New York. Between the Black Lives Matter movement, the Orlando shooting and the LGBT community, more WNBA players have been taking active roles in expressing their views on social issues. In the midst of “Camp Day” at the New York Liberty’s mid-morning game Wednesday, Liberty players stood in solidarity as they donned all-black warmups in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
After four teams began wearing the clothing, the league sent out a memo reminding players of the uniform guidelines; the Minnesota Lynx stopped wearing the attire, but the three fined teams did not.
Numerous WNBA players and coaches expressed their disdain of the league’s actions, including Mercury forward Mistie Bass, Fever forward Tamika Catchings and Liberty center Tina Charles.
“Today I decided not to be silent in the wake of the WNBA fines,” Charles wrote in an Instagram post. “My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement until the WNBA gives its support as it does for breast cancer awareness, Pride and other subject matters.”
Likewise, Bass wrote in a Twitter post, “Don’t say we have a voice and then fine us because we use it. #notpuppets #cutthestrings.” Catchings, an All-Star, wrote, “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.”
From left to right, Dallas Wings’ Erin Phillips, Plenette Pierson, Skylar Diggins, Brianna Kiesel and Odyssey Sims bow their heads during a moment of silence before a WNBA basketball game against the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. The Wings wore shirts with the slogan “Dallas Strong” in observance of recent events where five Dallas police officers lost their lives. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
In response, New York Liberty and Indiana Fever players began media blackouts on July 21, refusing to answer basketball-related questions and only commenting on questions concerning police brutality or the Black Lives Matter movement, among other social issues.
“If they’re trying to silence us on our platform wearing our t-shirts, then we can use as a platform and just use you guys to try to force this matter,” said Charles of the blackout, which she hopes other WNBA teams will support in the near future.