Fever make statement in black t-shirts; pro athletes today more willing to speak out

When the Indiana Fever hit the floor for pre-game warmups Tuesday evening, prior to their 92-82 win over the Los Angeles Sparks, every player was outfitted in a black t-shirt.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on around the world and we just didn’t want to have anything on the shirt that may cause a raucous,” said veteran forward Erlana Larkins. “Leave it to interpretation.”

Message received.

And it gained even more awareness because they wore them while on the bench instead of their usual shooting shirts. Plus, this game was televised nationally on ESPN2.

Indiana wore plain black t-shirts Tuesday night against Los Angeles.

Indiana wore plain black t-shirts Tuesday night against Los Angeles.

Players on the Minnesota Lynx, who edged the Fever in the 2015 WNBA Finals, wore specially-made t-shirts to a game one week ago and not only did it raise awareness — but caused controversy, too. Minneapolis cops contracted to work the game didn’t feel it was in good taste and so they walked out.

“Change Starts With Us. Justice & Accountability.”

In light of so many sad events going on in this country and around the world, these players decided to quietly show their support.

“Definitely want to pay respects to the cops in Baton Rouge and Dallas,” Tamika Catchings said. “There’s just a lot going on in the world right now. We stand united in supporting Black Lives Matter and so we just really wanted to come out and show our support and win a game.”

Some believe professional athletes and celebrities should not use their platform outside of their space and to speak up on social issues. We’ve seen athletes today change that standard, willing to put themselves out there knowing there is going to be backlash from select fans and potentially sponsors as well.

When it touches the heart, when it hits home, these athletes aren’t standing by anymore waiting for more to happen.

“I think it’s really important for our voices to be heard,” Catchings, the President of the WNBA Players Association, said.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is all for players using their unique platform.

“I am absolutely in favor of players speaking out and speaking from the heart about whatever issues are important to them,” he said last week in Las Vegas. “It’s how this country operates. I’ve had this direct conversation with many of our players, and I’m not one to say they have an obligation to do it, but I think those that feel comfortable doing it and want to speak out, they have this incredible forum to do it.”

However, Silver noted — emphasized, really — that would prefer that NBA and WNBA players alike don’t let it invade game space. On social media, in a first-person essay, or in a press conference, would be the league’s preference.

“My preference would be that players adhere to our uniform rules, both in the NBA and the WNBA,” he said. “I think it’s a very slippery slope. As to where you would draw the line when it’s appropriate for a particular player to use that, use a game, pregame, as a political forum, I think it’s a dangerous road for us to go down. So I would greatly prefer that the players use the platform they’re given, social media, press conferences, media in locker rooms, however they want to do it, to make their political points of view be known.”

At the ESPY awards, held last week in Los Angeles, NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James asked to open the show with a powerful and hopefully meaningful message for all.

Dwyane Wade: “The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value in black and brown bodies has to stop. But also, the retaliation has to stop. Enough is enough.

“Now, as athletes, it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than what we already do in our own communities. And the conversation cannot stop as our schedules get busy again.”

These professional athletes have a strong following and a big-time platform. When times are rocky and individuals do not feel safe walking around their hometown streets, we have an issue. Alerts are sent out daily about violence at home and around the world.

The Fever and the WNBA have supported several causes, like Pride Month, the Orlando community following the deadly attacks — the Fever wore special shooting shirts — and then the latest on Tuesday.

“I think one that we’ve done a really good job is that we’ve supported not just Black Lives Matter but Orlando,” Catchings continued. “When everything hit there, that was something that we jumped on as a league and that we supported. I feel like that it’s important for all of us to be able to stand for what we believe in and be able to make a stand.

“And it’s the whole team. It’s not one player or two players, it’s everybody on the team supports it.”

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