Sometimes in our great nation, silence is a huge problem. We have glaring issues that need to be dealt with and communication barriers continue to block our pathways to solutions. Things like racism, domestic violence, classism and education discrepancy are all on the list.
So when WNBA players around the league take a stand and address a social issue, it should be more than welcome. But after off duty police officers chose to leave a Minnesota Lynx game where they voluntarily chose to work security, an entire controversy followed the league and invoked the powers that be in the league to demand the players be silent.
The officers took issue with Lynx players wearing shirts recognizing and expressing support for the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — two black men who were killed by police officers in their respective cities — as well as the police officers slain in Dallas in retaliation to those killings by a lone assailant.
Shortly after the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury all wore black shirts during warmups in solidarity with the Lynx and their cause which led to $5,000 fines for each organization and $500 fines for each of the participating players because they are “expected to comply” to the league’s uniform policy according to WNBA President Lisa Borders. This triggered a movement around the league where multiple teams wore shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter cause, including the Washington Mystics, despite the potential fines on the way.
On Saturday, the league rescinded its fines to the teams and players. Despite the fines, Borders said she supports the players taking a stand against social injustice. However, she said, she wants to make sure they play well on the court and “are happy off of the court.”
Talk about being tone deaf.
As a black woman, Borders should clearly have some grasp of what her players are feeling. The WNBA is under special circumstances being a women’s league and a league with more than an overwhelming majority of its players being black. What are two of the biggest issues this country has that people don’t like to talk about? Black issues and women issues.
Misogyny is rampant in our country and always has been regardless of race. Black people have been oppressed since they set foot on this country’s soil. So when the WNBA fines these women and essentially tell them to remain silent while their worlds are being shaken up, they’re contributing to the silence of black women everywhere as much as any crooked police officer or racist bigot.
Rescinding the fines is all good and well, but the league deserves no credit for doing so. These are fines that should never have been imposed in the first place. After the league showed its solidarity with the people of Orlando and raised money to support the families of the victims slain during the terrorist attack, all bets were off. The same rules apply. People are dead. Families are hurting. They need support. The players used their platform to help them, and the shamefully league shut them down.
What happens more often? Black people are killed by police officers nearly every day. And according to a study done by the Washington Post, black people are 2.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed by a police officer. So when Tina Charles, Tanisha Wright, Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings show solidarity to these people in pain — show that someone else actually cares — it means something. These people need the help. They need something, any little thing, just to get through. Just to be recognized. And the WNBA tried to take that away from them.
So, no, we should not clap for the league for doing what was right in the first place. Especially not when it was convenient for them to do so. Because of the Rio De Janeiro Olympics, the WNBA is on hiatus until August 26. Borders said she would work with the players union to come up with a way to satisfy everyone in this situation and find a way to “make their views known to their fans and the public.”
But we already know how they feel. They’ve done a great job of showing the people how they feel and expressing themselves despite Borders and the league trying to silence them. The best solution is to allow the players to continue doing what they’re doing. It’s working and, who knows, it may end up causing change.
Borders would be smart to do that — especially since many of the players in the league play for other leagues around the world and make much higher salaries than they do in the WNBA. The WNBA needs these women. The women don’t need the WNBA.
We’ll see how the situation plays out and what solutions both sides come up with. Basketball is popular in America and the WNBA’s star power is growing. After this, it will grow even more. But for it to continue, the players need more freedom to express themselves.
The precedent is there. The league did it with Orlando. Their NBA counterparts have been able to do similar things with the support of Commissioner Adam Silver and the two leagues are under the same NBA umbrella.
There is no excuse. Silence is the enemy, and these women refuse to allow it to deter them. Borders and the WNBA can either get with it or get lost, because the platform will be put to use regardless.