September 23, 2016
WNBA players have been on the forefront in their support of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and the call for equal justice for all. After the officer involved killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, several WNBA teams took a stand by wearing t-shirts to show solidarity and to honor those who had been killed by those sworn to protect and serve. Initially the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, and Phoenix Mercury were all fined by the league for failure to comply with uniform guidelines but those fines were later rescinded after the league received backlash for not supporting its players.
The New York Liberty and the Indiana Fever took their stand one step further when both teams imposed a “media blackout,” where they refused to answer any questions about basketball and instead took questions only about the recent climate in black communities across the country. Tina Charles, who took the league’s scoring and rebounding crown this season, has been one of the more vocal players in her support of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Earlier this summer, Charles posted on her instagram account that “Although this is only phase one, we are looking forward to the support and exploring ways to make a difference in the African-American community, given our platform, and continuing to be a voice to those who are marginalized in our society.”
The 2016 WNBA playoffs began Wednesday night and again, the players took a stand by taking a knee during the National Anthem. Mistie Bass and Kelsey Bone, the latter having taken a knee for several games leading up to last night’s first-round matchup, took a knee while the entire Indiana Fever team took a knee during the singing. In a show of solidarity, these players were courageous and bold in expressing their beliefs. Colin Kaepernick, who began his silent protest by sitting during the National Anthem to protest police brutality against people of color, has been met with both praise and criticism but this hasn’t deterred him or other athletes from joining in on the protest.
The women of the WNBA continue to show why they are role models for the community. Why young girls look up to these women and aspire to be in their shoes one day. These women are on the forefront for social justice and change and their actions show it. They are unapologetic in their stance and insist on using their voices to bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face in this country today. It’s not easy being a part of a league that doesn’t get the credit or recognition it deserves, a league that struggles to find ways to bring in new fans, to make a gesture that could potentially isolate outsiders from coming in, but to these athletes social justice and social awareness is much bigger than sports. To get the conversation started is a step in the right direction and the WNBA will always be able to say they took a stand.- Marissa Coleman of the Indiana Fever couldn’t have made the message more clear, “We have a platform, and I think it’s a disservice if we don’t use it.” The WNBA playoffs resume on Saturday as the New York Liberty face the Phoenix Mercury at 7PM ET on NBATV. Expect the protests to continue.