NEW YORK – Lynx players earlier this month helped unleash a wave of social activism across the WNBA with their wearing of warm-up shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and slain police officers.
Now players across the league are paying a price.
The WNBA has fined the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury 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 because the shirts violated the league's uniform policy. 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.
The players were fined after they ignored a league memo earlier this week reminding teams of the uniform policy. The memo was sent after Lynx players, along with those in New York and Dallas, wore shirts in remembrance of two men who were shot by police in Falcon Heights and Baton Rouge, La., and the five Dallas police officers who were killed in an attack on July 7.
The fined players were not happy with the league's decision.
"What's most upsetting is the way it was handled," Indiana Fever player rep Briann January said. "You have a league that is 90 — if not above 90 percent — African-American and you have an issue that is directly affecting them and the people they know and you have a league that isn't willing to side with them.
"It's not a race issue, not an anti-police issue, not a black or white issue. It's a right or wrong issue."
WNBA President Lisa Borders said Wednesday night the fines were not about the players speaking out on a social issue.
"We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for nonviolent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league's uniform guidelines," Borders said.