WNBA Players Protest Police Murder… and Refuse to Back Down

July 21, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Members of the New York Liberty basketball team, July 13, 2016.

Minnesota Lynx players Rebekkah Brunson and Natasha Howard at starting lineups on July 9, 2016, wearing T-shirts that read on the front, "Change starts with us. Justice and accountability," and on the back, the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two men recently murdered by the police. (AP photo)

Women basketball players of the WNBA are standing up against police murder in the wake of the cop executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Earlier this month, players on the Minnesota Lynx team came on the court wearing T-shirts that read on the front, "Change Starts With Us. Justice and Accountability," and on the back, the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and "Black Lives Matter" at the bottom.

Then, in the face of cops and their supporters attacking the Lynx players for taking this courageous stand, other WNBA players stepped forward. Players from the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, and Phoenix Mercury wore plain black shirts instead of jerseys with their team logos. Kiah Stokes, center for the NY Liberty said: “'We realized this is a problem and something has to change. We just wanted to get a shirt that we could mourn the lives that were lost and brings awareness to show this is happening at an alarming rate for black people.'” Swin Cash, another Liberty player, said, “I don’t think you can play basketball, have a platform that we have and not be able to be a voice for people that are voiceless.” (New York Times, July 21, 2016)

Outrageously, all three teams and their players were hit with fines by the WNBA. The WNBA claims the fines are not for taking a stand on social issues but for violating the WNBA uniform requirements. But however they want to package this, it is an attempt to clamp down on the growing number of professional athletes speaking out against police murder.

But this has not silenced these players. On July 21, the Liberty played the Fever, and Liberty players continued to wear plain all-black jerseys. After the game, the Liberty's Tina Charles was named WNBA Player of the Month, and she accepted the award while wearing all black. She wrote on Instagram: “Today, I decided to not be silent in the wake of the @wnba fines against @nyliberty, @indianafever & @phoenixmercury due to our support in the #BlackLivesMatter movement . Seventy percent of the @wnba players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the @wnba gives its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, Pride and other subject matters.”

These WNBA players are taking a determined stand against the outrage of murders by police and we call on them to follow through on their convictions—and, in the course of fighting for justice, to really dig into the source of terror by police and other outrages of this system, and what it is going to take to win real and lasting change for the better.

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