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Geno Auriemma on WNBA fining players for social activism t-shirts: “I don’t know what the basis is for the WNBA fines”

Published on July 21, 2016


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This week fans learned that the WNBA fined three teams, the Indiana Fever, the New York Liberty and the Phoenix Mercury and some players for wearing black warm-up shirts to make statements about recent incidents of police brutality and shootings against officers.

Each team received a $5,000 fine. Each player received a $500 fine. According to the league, the shirts violated its uniform policy. Last night, per the Associated Press, league president Lisa Borders issued the following statement about the t-shirts and fines.

“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.”

In the wake the fines, many players have taken to social media to protest the punishment. Liberty players staged a media blackout after their home game today, only answering questions about the fines and their social activism. Liberty center Tina Charles also posted a message on Instagram about her stance.

View this post on Instagram

Today, I decided to not be silent in the wake of the @wnba fines against @nyliberty, @indianafever & @phoenixmercury due to our support in the #BlackLivesMatter movement . Seventy percent of the @wnba players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the @wnba gives its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, Pride and other subject matters.

A post shared by Tina Charles (@tina31charles) on

This afternoon, during a media teleconference, USA Basketball women’s national team coach Geno Auriemma also addressed the controversy and how it might play out during the Olympics.

“ I respect Tina 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. 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. I really believe that.

I don’t know what the basis is for the WNBA fines. I haven’t read their side of it. I assume that showing that kind of concern is fine from what I could tell and going through it, and I don’t know if the issue is the fact that the players want to continue doing it every single game. I don’t know what the issue is.

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 and the USA Basketball and the USOC, the Olympic committee. I really can’t — so far I have not heard anything or any talk about that.”

USA Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan also chimed in.

“I think whatever we can do to help people understand the situation and others is always an important piece.

I think we try to do that with our younger teams.  We want them to understand the magnitude of their position on a national team as well as trying to understand the other countries that we go to.  I know there are plenty of issues around the world, and I think that’s all part of what this is about is traveling and seeing those things and discussing it and trying to find solutions together.

So I would say we would certainly be interested in solutions and conversation.”

Last week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver seemed to support players that took stances on social issues when asked about his reaction to members of the Minnesota Lynx wearing t-shirts that honored the lives of civilians and police officers.

“I am absolutely in favor of players speaking out and speaking from the heart about whatever issues are important to them. 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, whether it’s through in a formal way through media members that are in this room or whether it’s through social media.”

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