The WNBA is withdrawing all fines against its teams and players that showed support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. WNBA President Lisa Borders announced in a statement July 23 that the organization would be rescinding all penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury for wearing T-shirts that violated their uniform policy.
The women began wearing their shirts in protest after Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, two African-American men who were fatally shot multiple times by police officers in Baton Rouge and Minnesota respectively. The T-shirts, which read “change starts with us: justice and accountability” on the front, also named of Alton and Philando, as well as the logo for the Dallas police department, in commemoration of the five police officers who were shot during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Texas.
Each team who participated in the protest, was fined $5,000 and players were given a $500 penalty because WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way, according to USA Today. The hefty penalty the players received for wearing the shirts was $300 more than the normal $200 fine.
“While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address important societal issues,” Borders said. “Given that the league will now be suspending play until Aug. 26 for the Olympics, we plan to use this time to work with our players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public.”
The organization’s retraction on the fines and penalties, and Border’s statement comes only after the players refusal to stop protesting. Many of the teams affected used their post-game interview sessions to continue to speak on the importance of the Black Lives Matter Movement and their displeasure with police brutality. Carmelo Anthony and Al Sharpton also spoke in solitude with the WNBA players for their call to action.
“We commend Lisa Borders for recognizing how the players of the WNBA felt and the sensitive time that we’re living in and being willing to re-evaluate their decision,” Isiah Thomas, President of the New York Liberty, one of the teams affected by the fines, said. “We are also very proud of our players the world is seeing what we already knew. They’re truly incredible, thoughtful and talented individuals. Our league, our partners and our society are better because of our players’ willingness to enter the political and social activism arena.”
The WNBA is yet another group of influencers in the sports world to take a stand. Carmelo, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James followed behind the women by publicly speaking out during the 2016 ESPYS.