After New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever players wore black warm-up shirts in protest of police shootings—and in support of slain officers—the WNBA levied fines against the teams and the involved players. The teams were fined $5,000 for breaking a rule that prohibits altering their uniforms, and the players were fined $500 each. ESPN reports that the typical fine for the violation is $200.
After the fines were levied, several players from the Liberty decided to use post-game interviews as a platform for protest, refusing to answer questions about the game and instead talking about the punishiment, why their support for Black lives does not equal hate for police, and the social issues that matter most to them as a group of predominantly Black women:
— Excelle Sports (@ExcelleSports) July 21, 2016
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 important 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.
Tamika Catchings, who plays for the Fever and is president of the players’ union, was pleased with the decision. “It’s a huge win overall,” she told ESPN. “I think more than anything I told [Borders], ‘at times you’re going to agree to disagree.’ With this, I’m really proud of the players standing strong and for utilizing their voices. Change starts with us. We have a social responsibility as well.”
New York Liberty player Tina Charles said she was happy to hear about the league’s change of heart, but that it doesn’t change much. “The only good thing that came out of it is that the 70 percent of the WNBA that are African Americans are protected when the jerseys are on. We are united with police officers,” she said. “When we take off our jerseys and we are out there, we could be next.”