In times of turmoil, people look to those in a position of power to speak out against injustice. Recently, members of the WNBA have been sporting warmup shirts to show support for the countless lives lost at the hands of police violence, and police officers who were murdered in retaliation. Players from the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, and the Phoenix Mercury have been fined for wearing plain black shirts without their team’s logo, which is a violation of the league’s uniform policy.
Shirts with slogans like “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#Dallas5”, as well as ones depicting specific victims of police violence were seen on the court prior to a number of basketball games. Eventually, the Liberty, Fever, and Mercury chose to sport plain black adidas tees as their warm up instead. Initially, the WNBA responded to the players by issuing warnings. Since the shirts were worn on 4 separate occasions, the organizations have each been fined $5000. Meanwhile, each player received a $500 fine.
Although it is a violation, the league must understand that world class athletes have a duty to use their platform to speak out against social injustice and stand with their country amidst tragic times.
Following a wave of criticism against players being fined for wearing black shirts, the WNBA has retracted the fines against players and the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, and Phoenix Mercury. In light of the situation, WNBA president Lisa Borders has issued a statement:
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.
In addition to players taking a stand by way of warm up gear, players from the Liberty and Fever staged a media blackout for their contest on Thursday. Players refused to speak to media unless they were asked questions regarding #BlackLivesMatter