WNBA Rescinds Fines For Players' Black Lives Matter Protests
In this Wednesday, July 13, 2016 file photo, members of the New York Liberty basketball team await the start of a game against the Atlanta Dream, in New York. The WNBA has fined the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever and their players for wearing plain black warm-up shirts in the wake of recent shootings by and against police officers. All three teams were fined $5,000 and each player was fined $500. While the shirts were the Adidas brand - the official outfitter of the league - WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
After punishing its players for Black Lives Matter protests that broke the league dress code, the WNBA has had a change of heart.
WNBA president Lisa Borders released a statement on Saturday concerning the fines:
"All of us at the WNBA have the utmost respect and appreciation for our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address societal issues. Given that the league will now be suspending play until August 26th 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 and we have informed the players that we are rescinding the recently imposed fines."
The fines were given to players on the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, and Phoenix Mercury for violating the dress code. For one game, Liberty players wore shirts that read "#BlackLivesMatter" to honor Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two men who were killed by police. For another game, they wore shirts that read "#Dallas5," to honor the five Dallas police officers who were killed in an attack on July 7. To compromise, the Liberty, the Fever and the Mercury all wore black adidas t-shirts to honor all the aforementioned victims. The three teams' protests followed a protest a week earlier by the Minnesota Lynx, whose players wore shirts that read, "Change starts with us. Justice & accountability," along with the names of Sterling and Castile, the logo of the Dallas Police Department, and the phrase "Black Lives Matter."
The WNBA fined all three teams $5,000, and each participating player $500. Borders said the league was "proud of WNBA players' engagement," but wanted them to follow the uniform guidelines. Players expressed disappointment in the fines: many of the league's players are black so they were personally invested in the cause, and they thought there was contradiction since they were supplied shirts to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting in a gay nightclub that killed 49.
"[T]hey 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 ESPN. "This is important to us."
After the fines, the teams showed solidarity by only answering questions about Black Lives Matter in post-game interviews.
The three teams' protests followed a demonstration by the Minnesota Lynx, whose players wore shirts that read, "Change starts with us. Justice & accountability," along with the names of Sterling and Castile, the logo of the Dallas Police Department, and the phrase "Black Lives Matter." Four off-duty police officers working security walked off the job in protest.