Do The Right Thing: WNBA Shows How Sports Activism Is Done
BY: John “Hennry” Harris
On July 9, 2016 players from the Minnesota Lynx wore t-shirts in support of the police shooting deaths of Philando Castile, also from Minnesota, Alton Sterling, the Dallas, TX police officers who lost their loves from a lone gunman and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Their black warm-up shirts were printed with “Black Lives Matter” and the phrases “Change Starts With Us” and “Justice and Accountability”, with an image of the Dallas police shield and the names of Castile and Sterling.
In an attempt to continue their political stance without violating warm-up attire rules, players from the Liberty, the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury wore plain black shirts by Adidas, the WNBA’s attire sponsor.
This did not stop the league from issuing fines last week: the Fever, Liberty and Mercury were fined $5,000 each and each player on those teams were fined an additional $500 for wearing the black shirts. Sidenote: standard uniform violations fines are $200, as reported by ESPN.
The fines only strengthened the protests as the Liberty’s Tina Charles would accept a Player of the Month award last Thursday (July 21, 2016) with her warm-up inside out. She would then put the league on blast via Instagram:
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.
The Liberty, Fever and Washington Mystics started a media “blackout” refusing to answer reporters’ post-game questions unless they related to the social problems dominating the news cycles and the Black Lives Matter movement.
This past Friday, to avoid getting fined, players from the Lynx, and Seattle Storm tweeted photos of themselves in black shirts or Black Lives Matter shirts, but did not wear them on-court, continuing their protests while circumventing a fine.
— Nina Mandell (@ninamandell) July 23, 2016
— Sue Bird (@S10Bird) July 22, 2016
WNBA players across the league vowed to continue their media blackout “until we get support” from the league, which is 70% African-American, and the women continued to fight for their right to use their platforms and not be silenced.
WNBA President Lisa Borders heard the women and they didn’t have to scream at the top of their lungs either.
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 23, 2016
The WNBA are shining examples of how to athletes can participate in activism, raise awareness and do it an impacting, respectful manner !!
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