The WNBA backtracked on a controversial fine it gave to teams whose players wore black T-shirts before their games to show support for African-American victims of police shootings.
Three teams -- the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, and Phoenix Mercury -- were fined $5,000 each because players wore the shirts, which the league argued violated a policy that requires players not to alter their uniforms in any way. The players donned the shirts to show solidarity after the shooting deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, reports the Associated Press. Both were killed by police officers.
WNBA president Lisa Borders released a statement explaining why the league rescinded the fines, saying, "All of us at the WNBA have the utmost respect and appreciation for our players expressing themselves on matters important to them.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."
Despite the fines, players such as New York Liberty forward Tina Charles continued to wear the black shirts before games. Several players who were fined responded by refusing to answer any basketball-related questions at press conferences, choosing instead to respond only to questions related to the shootings, notes Sports Illustrated.
After a Liberty-Fever game last Thursday, basketball players banded together to create a media blackout, Sports Illustrated reports. "We're only talking about Black Lives Matter," said Fever forward Tamika Catchings at a press conference.
Swin Cash, a Liberty forward, spoke out in the locker room, saying, "We really would appreciate that people stop making our support of Black Lives Matter, an issue that is so critical in our society right now, as us not supporting the police officers," according to Mother Jones.
In her statement, Borders said that since the league is suspending play until August 26 because of the Olympics, it will be using the extra time to work with players and their union "to make their views known to their fans and the public."
Patrisse Cullors, one of the queer cofounders of Black Lives Matter, spoke out in support of the players wearing black shirts on Facebook: "We need to thank the people of the wnba who are showing up for Black lives and facing the consequences because of white supremacy."