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WNBA fines 3 teams, players for shirts in wake of shootings

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NEW YORK — Social activism is coming at a cost for WNBA players.

The WNBA has fined the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever and their players for wearing black warm up shirts in the wake of recent shootings by and against police officers.

All three teams were fined $5,000 and each player was fined $500.

The Liberty have worn the plain black shirts four times, including Wednesday morning against Washington. The Mercury and Fever wore them Tuesday night. While the shirts were the Adidas brand – the official outfitter of the league – WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way.

“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,” WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement provided to The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

The league sent out a memo earlier this week to the teams reminding them of the uniform policy. The memo came out after Minnesota, New York and Dallas all wore shirts in remembrance of two men who were shot by police and the five Dallas police officers who were killed in an attack on July 7.

The Lynx only wore their shirts once and said they will shift their focus to addressing the issue in other ways. The Liberty reached what the players called a compromise in which they wear plain black shirts bearing only the Adidas logo. New York’s normal warm-up shirt is black, but has its logo on it as well.

Longtime WNBA director Renee Brown stepping down

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NEW YORK (AP) Renee Brown has been at the WNBA since its inception. Twenty years after joining the league, the WNBA’s chief of basketball operations and player relations is stepping down this month.

“It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions I made in my life,” Brown told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. “I love the WNBA, and was fortunate 20 years ago that Val (Ackerman), David (Stern), Russ (Granik) and Adam (Silver) allowed me to come in at the start of this league. Walking away, it’s sad but yet joyful at the same time.”

Brown is one of a handful of people still involved in the league since its beginning in 1997.

“Twenty years in, people didn’t think we’d be here,” Brown said. “I knew we would be. It’s been fun watching the talent grow. I think the WNBA has been in great shape from the minute we came here. A lot to do with what the NBA gives the WNBA. From the beginning, I was very confident once the NBA allowed us to put the W in front of its name, we’d be well taken care of.”

In her current role and through her work with the WNBA’s competition committee, Brown has directly influenced how the game is played. This past season, teams set records for points per game, field goals made and attempted, field goal percentage, free throws made, free throw percentage and assists.

Brown has also been involved with USA Basketball since 1996. She has served on its board of directors and chaired the selection committee of the senior national team.

“Renee has selflessly served USA Basketball as a coach, committee member and passionate supporter,” said Carol Callan, director of women’s basketball for USA Basketball. “She first served as an assistant coach during the historic 1995-96 USA national team yearlong preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.”

The U.S. hasn’t lost in the Olympics since Brown got involved, winning six consecutive gold medals.

“Any time I put on a USA T-shirt or a sweatshirt, I put it on with so much pride recognizing we’re all representing our country,” she said.

Brown said she let WNBA President Lisa Borders know of her decision at the start of this season.

“Renee’s contributions to the WNBA’s growth have been immeasurable,” Borders said. “It has been a pleasure working alongside her during this landmark season and I will continue to rely on her expertise. She will always be part of the WNBA family.”

Brown said she will continue to be involved in basketball, joining the Jr. NBA Leadership Council. The Nevada native plans to stay in New York for now.

“My goal is to stay in New York and look for other opportunities involved in the game, sports or women empowerment,” Brown said. “Take the skills I’ve learned here and use them somewhere else. It’s an exciting time for me. I thought I’d be here three to four years. Twenty years later, I’m here and it’s been great. I’m looking forward to my next journey.”

WNBA withdraws fines for player protests

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NEW YORK — The WNBA has withdrawn its fines for teams that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings by wearing black warmup shirts before games.

WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement Saturday the league was rescinding penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and their players for wearing the shirts during pregame protests, which began after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Each organization was fined $5,000 and players were each given a $500 penalty because WNBA rules stated that uniforms may not be altered in any way. The normal fine for uniform violations is $200.

“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 August 26th 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 fines seemed to galvanize the players, who have used postgame interview sessions and social media to voice their displeasure. There has also been public criticism of the fines, including from NBA star Carmelo Anthony.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said early Saturday his organization, the National Action Network, would pay the $500 fines. He called the penalty “unacceptable.”