Entire Indiana Fever team kneels during anthem before playoff game
INDIANAPOLISThe latest round of athletes’ protests during the playing of the American national anthem came Sept. 21 against the backdrop of recent fatal shootings of African-American men by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Before a win-or-go-home WNBA playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury in Indianapolis on Sept. 21, every Indiana Fever player knelt and linked arms as the national anthem played, the New York Times reported.
They were joined by two Mercury players, Mistie Bass and Kelsey Bone. The other Mercury players remained standing.
Even given the high stakes of the game, Fever Coach Stephanie White told her players that she had been proud to see what she characterized as an important gesture.
“I’m proud of y’all for doing that together, being in that together,” she said, according to ESPN. “That’s big. That’s big. It’s bigger than basketball, right? Bigger than basketball.”
The Fever fell, 89-78, getting 13 points from Tamika Catchings in what proved her final game. The Mercury advanced to a game against the New York Liberty on Sept. 24.
In July, players on the Fever and the Mercury, as well as the Liberty, were fined by the WNBA after wearing black T-shirts intended to draw attention to police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.
“It’s unfortunate that the WNBA has fined us and not supported its players,” Liberty guard Tanisha Wright said at the time. “We feel America has a problem with the police brutality with black lives around here, and we just want to use our voices and use our platform to advocate for that.”
The fines were later rescinded.
The kneeling WNBA players were following the lead of Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who jump-started a national conversation in August when he began to sit or kneel during the national anthem in protest of what he called the oppression of black people and other members of minorities.
His protest has prompted many athletes to take sides. Many have voiced support for Kaepernick or have imitated the gesture themselves. Others have criticized him.