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WNBA president talks about fining players over warmup shirts

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NEW YORK — WNBA President Lisa Borders applauds the league’s players for taking an active stance on social issues, she just wishes they would keep it off the court.

Borders spent the past two weeks talking with the union and its executive council, trying to come up with ways that both the league and its players could constructively address the Black Lives Matters movement. Nothing concrete was decided.

“We were making every effort to engage our players,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday night. “We made an effort to support them and we were trying to get them to come to the table to have a conversation. The players have an open invitation with the league. Our players are important to us. We believe in them. We want them to be the people they are and we’re proud of them. We want to make sure they play well on the court and they are happy off the court.”

Right now the players aren’t happy.

On social media and in post-game interviews, players are showing their solidarity after the league fined the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury players $500 each this week for wearing plain black warm-up shirts that violated the league’s uniform policy. The normal fine for a uniform violation is $200. Each team also was fined $5,000.

Washington Mystics players had shirts saying “Black Lives Matters” in the locker room after their game Friday night. Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx players tweeted out pictures of their teams wearing black T-shirts featuring a Martin Luther King Jr. quote before their game. They didn’t wear those shirts on the court to avoid getting fined.

“We’re sick and tired of waking up every morning and seeing something like this (shootings) happen,” Mystics player Ivory Latta said after her team played its final game before the Olympic break. “We need change and we have a platform to speak. Don’t tell us we have a platform and then you penalize us for our platform for speaking and showing our actions. That’s not right.”

Borders, who has been on the job for four months, disagreed with the notion that the league was suppressing its players’ voices in the wake of shootings by and against police officers.

“We want the players to know that we have supported them in the past, support them today and will continue to support them in the future,” she said. “We’re not trying to stop them from expressing themselves.”

The league just doesn’t want them to do it on the court if it violates the WNBA uniform rules. The shirts that the players were fined for wearing were the Adidas brand – the official outfitter of the league. WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way.

“The Adidas black shirts are not regulation,” Borders said. “They are sponsor appropriate, but the Adidas plain black shirt would not be a regulation-issued shirt.”

The union felt it was unnecessary for the league to issue a memo this week reminding the players of the uniform policy. Because of that memo, the players and union weren’t surprised by the fine. They were just disappointed.

“This isn’t about a shirt, but that was the starting point,” new WNBAPA director of operations Terri Jackson told the AP. “The players want to blog about (Black Lives Matter), tweet about it, do videos. They want to raise visibility and keep the conversation going. They don’t want this to die out.”

Jackson said the union’s legal team is looking into what it can do about the fines, which she called excessive.

She said the union proposed letting the players have a limited time to express their opinions on the court.

“We talked about doing it pregame at the 10-minute mark or the 15-minute mark and they’d go back and put on their regulation warmup. Wear the regulation warmups for the national anthem and life goes on. That was declined by the league.”

While the league begins its monthlong break on Saturday, its top players will be playing in Rio at the Olympics. U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said he was proud of their social activism.

“I respect Tina (Charles) and the players in the WNBA for their concern and their voices and the passion that they have and for their beliefs. I really do,” he said, citing the Liberty star for wearing her warmup shirt inside-out on Thursday. “I’m really proud of some of my former players and the way they’ve stepped forward and spoken their conscience and express their feelings.”

The league was still undecided on whether Charles would be fined.

Auriemma wasn’t sure what the players could do at the Olympics to continue the discussion.

“As far as USA Basketball is concerned, you know, that’s a very delicate subject. Obviously each player has an opportunity to be who they want and say what they feel, but at the same time, you are representing the United States of America, and you are part of the Olympic team. So somewhere – it’s a delicate, I think, question, and I’m sure it’ll come up, and we’ll have to deal with it. Not me per se, but Carol (Callan) and the USA Basketball and the USOC, the Olympic committee.”

Both the league and the union hope there can be constructive conversations during the break. Borders said she’ll be in Rio for two weeks at the Olympics but will participate in the monthly conference call between the two groups on Aug. 1. She missed the one on July 11 when the shirts initially were discussed.

“I love this league and its players. I’d never do anything to harm the league, franchises or players,” Borders said. “I want them to understand we’re here to support them. We’ve hit a bump in a road. This too shall pass.”

AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.