The WNBA is trying to nip social activism in the butt by hitting the New York Liberty in the pocket. The league fined the Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever and their ballers for wearing black warm-up shirts as a symbol and cry for solidarity in light of the rash of killings across the country involving police officers.
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Each team got hit with a $5,000 fine and the players had to cough up $500 per perpetrator. It seemed to do the trick.
Both teams were back to wearing their normal warm-up shirts on Thursday. Liberty superstar Tina Charles, however, wasn’t done expressing herself and bringing attention to an issue that is plaguing -- as Donald Trump calls it -- “a once-great nation.”
In true Queens fashion, the All-Star and 2016 Olympian refused to totally comply with the league and wore hers inside out. Another example of the new-age African-American athlete putting social change before financial gain and truly understanding what their notoriety is for and how to socially maximize it.
Charles is just one of many players who aren't feeling the fines or the league's attempts to ignore an issue that the majority of the WNBA is passionate about. It's perceived as insensitive and almost bigoted in nature. Times are changing across the pro sports landscape and the WNBA can't hide in its NBA-protected fluff nest anymore. Not when the most compelling issue concerning this country and upcoming Presidential election directly affects the WNBA Family.
“What’s most upsetting is the way it was handled,” Indiana Fever player rep Briann January told CBS. “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."
“It’s not a race issue, not an anti-police issue, not a black or white issue. It’s a right or wrong issue.”
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In the above photo, Charles and Liberty teammate Carolyn Swords are seen sporting a #BlackLivesMatter shirt before their game against the San Antonio Stars on July 10 at Madison Square Garden
The league sent out a memo earlier this week to teams reminding them of the uniform policy in the aftermath of Minnesota, New York and Dallas players wearing shirts in honor of two black men who were ruthlessly shot by police officers and the five Dallas cops who were unjustly slain in a vicious July 7th retaliation on “the system.”
The Liberty have done it four times, including on Wednesday against Washington. The Fever and Mercury rocked them on Tuesday night. WNBA rules clearly state that you can’t mess around with the uniforms, but that’s why the women expressed themselves in that way.
Said the WNBA via AP: “We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement in passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues, but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines.”
The NBA’s sister league feels strongly about these issues. The WNBA has always supported social issues on the side of the underdog, whether it be gay rights, or better pay, or racism, gender discrimination or bullying.
In the players' case, altering the uniforms is their small way of showing support for everyone involved in this ugly state of affairs. Any sensible human being would admit that families of all colors suffer when cops die and black men continue to be the victims of senseless and savage deaths at the hands of state-employed police officers.
The Lynx only rocked their shirts once and it caused quite a stink with some off-duty Minnesota cops who were present at the game and interpreted the support of the slain officers as offensive.
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The cops went as far as walking off the job in a form of counter protest. The animosity towards the Lynx organization was obvious.
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But the Daily News says, “The Liberty reached what players called a compromise in which they wear plain black shirts bearing only the Adidas logo.”
New York’s normal warm-up threads are black, but it also has the team logo on it. The WNBA, or NBA, or whoever is really running that operation wasn’t feeling the marketing push back more than anything. Logo exposure is worth more than the players to the league and the owners.
The teams were also probably getting pressure from way up top to chill on the political and social messages and get back to the buckets. You know how owners and league execs get when the money flow might be affected. Too much social activism can kill a perfect capitalistic machine.
The WNBA players fired warning shots and they were ignored, so the league started instituting fines to squelch the activism and get those logos back on the warm-up suits. It worked for everyone except Tina Charles.
It will be interesting to see what the next move will be. In any event the league should be very careful with how they handle Charles, who is one of the faces of the WNBA. They should also be cautious in how it addresses the issues that 90 percent of the league feels are important enough to start flexing on the system.
Not sure if the WNBA wants to turn one of their biggest draws into public enemy No. 1, but it won't be easy. Charles’ reputation is beyond reproach as a person, basketball player and teammate. She’s known as a woman of golden character, an advocate for all cancer survivors and a person who knows how to use her platform to inspire, heal and positively construct as well as anyone.
This isn't the last we've heard of the this, and as the problems in this country increase, players across all pro sports will continue to set new standards for their community involvement and more vigorously express themselves on social issues.