Over the course of the last two weeks, players from four WNBA teams have taken it upon themselves to wear black anti-violence warmup shirts before games as a way to protest the recent shootings involving police officers around the country. The Minnesota Lynx started things off in early July—and made Minneapolis police officers mad—by wearing these #BlackLivesMatter shirts before a game:
Since then, the New York Liberty have also worn #BLM shirts as well as plain black warmup shirts to protest violence:
And the Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever have joined in, too. Those two teams wore black warmup shirts before a game on Tuesday night:
The WNBA put out a memo on Monday, though, asking teams not to wear plain black shirts anymore. WNBA rules call for all players to wear regulation Adidas warmup shirts that have not been altered before games, so the memo reminded the Liberty, Mercury, and Fever that, while they were wearing black Adidas shirts, those shirts did not feature their team logos, which meant the teams were in violation of the league’s rules. But all three teams continued to wear them this week, so on Wednesday night, the WNBA announced that each team would be fined $5,000 and each player on those teams would be fined $500 for breaking the rules.
WNBA president Lisa Borders released a statement to the Associated Press on Wednesday night and said that that she is "proud" of the players on the teams for taking a stand. But she also said that she cannot allow them to continue to alter their uniforms without penalty.
"We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines," she said.
That obviously isn’t sitting well with many people. Mercury forward Mistie Bass has been particularly vocal with regards to the fine:
Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark has spoken up, too:
So has Liberty center Tina Charles:
And Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins:
Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter posted this:
And many former WNBA players have chimed in as well:
Late Thursday, Carmelo Anthony also spoke up on behalf of the WNBA players who were fined:
I don't see no reason to fine them. If anything you should want to support them. I don't know details, but don't see a reason to fine them. A bunch of teams did it and individuals did it. Everybody has their own freedom of speech. If they decide to use the platforms to do that, I don't see any reasons for anybody to get fined. We did it. The NBA did it two years ago. The NBA was very supportive. I don't see why it would be different this time.
None of the WNBA players or teams have revealed whether or not they plan to appeal the fines yet. But it’s worth nothing that several NBA players who wore "I CAN’T BREATHE" T-shirts before games in 2014 were not fined by the league back then. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did say that he didn’t approve of players wearing the shirts, and after the league put out a memo asking players to stop wearing them, the players went back to wearing their normal warmup shirts. But no fines were given out in that instance.