This month players and teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association have been wearing black warmup shirts before and during games. It’s a show of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and for police officers recently killed in targeted shootings.
The WNBA –which put out a special shirt in solidarity with the people of Orlando after a gun man opened fire at a gay night club– was not too pleased about its players’ fashion statement. So it levied fines on three teams: The Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, and New York Liberty.
Normally a uniform violation is two hundred dollars. This time, the infraction cost individual players five hundred dollars and cost teams five thousand dollars. The league handed out these fines last Wednesday.
This did not damper the protests. On Thursday evening, The New York Liberty and Indiana Fever refused to talk basketball during the after-game press conference. They would only discuss Black Lives Matter.
With bags of ice wrapped around their knees, players explained their media blackout position from the locker room.
Tamika Catchings, president of the players union and an All-Star player on the Indiana Fever, says. ”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.”
WNBA player of the month Tina Charles was glad the league removed the fines, and added that it was ”embarrassing” that the players had been fined in the first place. Tina Charles, who plays for New York Liberty, accepted her award for player of month the same day yet another African American man was shot by police in Miami. She wore a black shirt when she got the award.
This is not the first time players wearing T-shirts to protest police brutality. In 2014, LeBron James, star of the Cleveland Cavaliers, wore a warmup shirt that said “I can’t breathe,” referencing the last words of Eric Garner who was killed by New York City police officers. LeBron James did not get a fine.