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WNBA players respond to fines by only taking questions on social issues

Players from two WNBA teams responded to the league’s decision to fine them for making statements about social justice by refusing to answer any media questions about basketball.
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Players from two WNBA teams responded to the league’s decision to fine them for making statements about social justice by refusing to answer any media questions about basketball.

Three teams were fined $5,000 and their players were each fined $500 for wearing black warmup shirts as a show of support for the victims of recent shootings. 

After Thursday morning’s Liberty-Fever game, players from both teams staged a media blackout.

“We’re only talking about Black Lives Matter,” Fever forward Tamika Catchings said

In the Liberty locker room, veteran forward Swin Cash gave a brief statement about the game before she and her teammates discussed their advocacy.

“We really would appreciate that people stop making our support of Black Lives Matter, an issue that is so critical in our society right now, as us not supporting the police officers,” Cash said. “There's a lot of women in this room right now, and in the WNBA, that have family members who are in law enforcement, family who are in the military...The fact of the matter is, there is an issue at hand is, and as much as we can grieve and feel sorry for those families who are losing those police officers, we also have the right and the ability to also have our voice be heard about an issue that goes back even further than the deaths that have been happening lately. And so I think people need to understand that it's not mutually exclusive. You also can support both things, but at the same time, this issue is important to us.”

The Liberty’s Tina Charles turned her warmup shirt inside-out while accepting the WNBA’s Player of the Month award and explained her decision on Instagram. 

“I was just thinking, with what happened today in North Miami to the African-American male who was down just trying to help an autistic person out, when I heard about that news, I just couldn't be silent,” Charles told reporters. “You know, just knowing my status, knowing the player I am representing this organization, if anybody was going to wear it, it had to be me. So for me, it's just all about me continuing to raise awareness. I have no problem wearing this shirt inside out for the rest of the season until we're able to have the WNBA support.”

The WNBA Players Association also released a statement expressing disappointment in the league’s decision. 

“We are extremely disappointed the league chose to punish our players for bringing attention to an issue that continues to impact families and communities across the country,” the WNBA Players Association said in a statement. “The league’s behavior has been inconsistent.  Our players sought only to demonstrate in a constructive way that was consistent with reactions to social issues by NBA players, and with earlier league initiatives, including the recent tragedy affecting the LGBTQ community in Orlando. The league’s decision to try and suppress our players’ desire to express themselves is shortsighted and arbitrary, and we hope they will reconsider.”