Cal Women's Basketball Protest: "Black Lives Matter"

December 15, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

On Saturday, December 13, the University of California at Berkeley women’s basketball team came out for warm-ups wearing home-made shirts to protest the murder of Black people by the police. The backs of the shirts said “Black Lives Matter” and “We are Cal.” But it was the fronts of the shirts that made this a very special protest, where every player had the name of a Black person who had been killed by police and the year they were killed. Some of those named were Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Kimani Gray, Michael Donald, and Laura Nelson. Before the game the Cal players stood at half-court with their hands up (“Hands up, don’t shoot!”) during the national anthem.

After the game, Lindsay Gottlieb, the Cal women’s head basketball coach, gave this statement in support of her players:

I’m a basketball coach, and I’m competitive and winning is important. Our standards at Cal are high, and of course losing this game is disappointing. That said, however, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of these players or our whole team and staff.

As student-athletes at Cal, our young women have a voice and a platform, and they chose to use it today. They want to be part of a solution, and they took the steps that were in their power today.

We can talk about X’s and O’s all day, but in reality there are bigger life issues and the moral consciousness of our players is something I’m proud of. I don’t tell them what to think, but I do encourage them to think.

Earlier this week, the captains came to me and said, as a team, they wanted to wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts next Sunday when we play at home against Louisville. This morning, we got out of shoot-around and were quickly met with images from our campus that were disturbing. These images may have been to bring awareness to injustice, or they may have been an act of cruelty; either way, they elicited strong emotions from everyone. The entire team came to me. They were compelled to act. We met for 45 minutes about how to best use our voices. As a group, they decided to wear shirts that brought attention to lives lost—recently and throughout history—and to stand and say that black lives matter; all lives matter.

I wish we had won today. It was a brutal loss, but our players wearing handmade shirts to symbolize something poignant and important is what I will remember proudly from today. I love this team and staff for who they are as people. (See “Cal Women's Basketball makes a statement.”)

The “disturbing images” Gottlieb was referring to were two effigies that were found hanging on the Cal campus that Saturday morning. The effigies were cutouts of two Black people. One effigy had written on it, “#CANT BREATHE.” The other was of a Black woman and written on it was “#I CANT BREATHE” and “Laura Nelson, Year: 1911,” referring to Laura Nelson, a Black woman who was kidnapped and lynched with her son in Oklahoma in 1911. Michaele McBride, a Berkeley pastor, said, “...the images evoked terror and reminded us that the bodies of Black people in this country are still vulnerable.” (See “Depiction of apparent lynching hangs from Sather Gate on Saturday morning,” Melissa Wen, The Daily Californian.)

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