After initially sticking to its rules and fining players and teams for violating uniform rules by wearing t-shirts in support of the violence-prone Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has now bowed to pressure from players and reversed its decision to levy the fines.
Lat week the WNBA fined three teams and all their players when athletes began wearing Black Lives Matter shirts in locker rooms and on the court during warm up periods. The league announced fines for the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and the Indiana Fever.
After the fines were levied players began to criticize the move saying the league suppressed their freedom of speech.
Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings, for instance, was caught in LAX by gossip site TMZ and in response to a question about the fines the player insisted she was “disappointed” by the league’s actions.
“It’s been a lot disappointing that the WNBA hasn’t supported [BLM],” Catchings told the website.
But only a few days after fining the teams for breaking uniform rules, the WNBA reversed its decision and canceled the fines.
In a statement WNBA President Lisa Borders said, “While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address important societal issues,” Borders said. “Given that the league will now be suspending play until Aug. 26 for the Olympics, we plan to use this time to work with our players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public.”
Appreciate our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.
— WNBAPrez (@WNBAPrez) July 23, 2016
Catchings was quick out of the gate to praise the reversal of the fines. “It’s a huge win overall,” Catchings said. “I think more than anything I told [Borders] at times you’re going to agree to disagree. With this, I’m really proud of the players standing strong and for utilizing their voices. Change starts with us. We have a social responsibility as well.”
Other players also praised the cancellation of the fines. Liberty President Isiah Thomas, for instance, commended Borders for ending the fines, noting, “We are also very proud of our players” for donning the Black Lives Matter shirts.
Even as she praised the reversal, though, New York Liberty player Tina Charles called it “embarrassing” that the league levied the fines in the first place.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.