WNBA Players Won’t Back Down from BLM Protest After Fine, Points Out Hypocritical Response Compared to Orlando Shooting

New York Liberty protests in support of Black Lives Matter (Fox Sports)

New York Liberty protests in support of Black Lives Matter (Fox Sports)

In a defiant move Thursday, members of three WNBA teams refused to take questions about basketball at a post-game press conference in protest of a fine given for wearing black warmup t-shirts. Atlanta Black Star reported the WNBA fined the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever $5,000, and their team members were charged $500 each.

The basketball stars wore their uniform-approved Adidas Black t-shirts that read #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5 – but the messages did not comply with the league’s guidelines which state uniforms must not be changed in any way. The hashtags are meant to honor the shootings done by and against police. League president Lisa Borders commended their “engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues” but expected teams to comply with uniform guidelines.

At the press conference Thursday afternoon following the New York Liberty and Indiana Fever’s matchup at New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Washington Post reported the players would not answer questions regarding the game or basketball but were willing to discuss social issues.

“We really feel like there’s still an issue here in America,” Liberty player Tanisha Wright said. “And we want to be able to use our platforms, we want to be able to use our voices, we don’t want to let anybody silence us in what we want to talk about. So you guys can ask away about anything that’s happening in society.”

“It’s unfortunate that the WNBA has fined us and not supported its players,” she added.

Fever forward Tamika Catchings also confirmed her team would not answer questions about their 82-70 game win or the sport itself. She mentioned the blackout was a group decision.

“I think, no matter what our success is on the court, basketball is just that — it’s just basketball,” the 2012 WNBA champion said. “And there’s a whole other world outside of that, and it’s way more important than what we do.”

“What’s most upsetting is the way it was handled,” Indiana Fever point guard Briann January told ESPN. “You have a league that is 90 – if not above 90 – percent African-American and you have an issue that is directly affecting them and the people they know and you have a league that isn’t willing to side with them.”

Phoenix Mercury forward Mistie Bass pointed out the WNBA’s praise of team actions in support of the Orlando Shooting last month, which included wearing t-shirts.

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, who has been encouraging athletes to be social activists, also supports the protest.

“I don’t see no reason to fine them,” he told ESPN. “If anything you should want to support them. I don’t know details, but don’t see a reason to fine them.”

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