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WNBA President addresses backlash from players

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Lisa Borders addresses the press about the leagues players taking a stance on the social issue of Black Lives Matter.

Chris Poss - Swish Appeal

President of the WNBA, Lisa Borders has been fairly quiet since the league announced the fining of players, teams for wearing black t-shirts during warmups. Friday afternoon she had a phone interview with the Associated Press, the New York Times reported.

Borders shared in the interview:

"We were making every effort to engage our players. We made an effort to support them and we were trying to get them to come to the table to have a conversation. The players have an open invitation with the league.

Our players are important to us. We believe in them. We want them to be the people they are and we're proud of them. We want to make sure they play well on the court and they are happy off the court."

Since three teams were fined earlier in the week, teams and players around the league have continued to take a stance on via social media and during postgame interviews. What seems to be alarming is players, teams were fined for violating the league's uniform policy, however usually that fine is $200, however this time not only was it $500 but the franchise were fined $5,000 as well.

The National Action Network, which is ran by Reverend Al Sharpton, will pay the $500 fines, as he sees the penalty as "unacceptable."

Following Friday's game, teams around the league posted photos in all black shirts and a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even though they did not wear them on the court to avoid being fined, they still wanted social media and the WNBA to know they are not backing down.

It's bigger than US! Proud of my @indianafever mates, and all of the ladies around the league who are exercising OUR RIGHTS & using our platform to create change! #BlackLivesMatter #Fight4Equality #NoMoreSilence #ChangingLives #Inspire #ChangeSTARTSWithUs #UseYourVoice #HelpCreateChange #SoBlessed @WNBPA

Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics had this to share with the media following their last game before the Olympic break.

"We're sick and tired of waking up every morning and seeing something like this (shootings) happen. We need change and we have a platform to speak. Don't tell us we have a platform and then you penalize us for our platform for speaking and showing our actions. That's not right."

On the other end, Borders does not believe the league is suppressing its players' voices in the wake of the shootings.

"We want the players to know that we have supported them in the past, support them today and will continue to support them in the future," she said. "We're not trying to stop them from expressing themselves."

She also shared while the black shirts were the official outfitter of the league with Adidas, that shirt is not regulation for their uniforms, thus a player wearing one is still a violation of altering the uniform.

"The Adidas black shirts are not regulation," Borders said in her interview with the AP. "They are sponsor appropriate, but the Adidas plain black shirt would not be a regulation-issued shirt."

Terri Jackson is the new operations director of the WNBA Players Association and she did not go silent on the issue at hand either.

"This isn't about a shirt, but that was the starting point. The players want to blog about (Black Lives Matter), tweet about it, do videos. They want to raise visibility and keep the conversation going. They don't want this to die out."

Jackson shared the fines are "excessive" and the union's legal team is searching to see what they can do about the fines. She brought to the table a proposal of allowing players a limited time to express their opinions on the court.

"We talked about doing it pregame at the 10-minute mark or the 15-minute mark and they'd go back and put on their regulation warmup. Wear the regulation warmups for the national anthem and life goes on. That was declined by the league."

With the Olympic break starting, Geno Auriemma, who will be coaching the U.S in Rio, is sure the subject will come up while the players are abroad and the matter would fall to U.S Olympics and basketball authorities.

"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. ... I'm sure it'll come up, and we'll have to deal with it."

On August 1st there will be a conference call between the league and the union, in hopes of a constructive conversation on the matter. While Borders will be in attendance of the Olympics in Rio, she will take part in the conference, unlike on July 11th when she did not in the initial conversation of the t-shirts.

At the end of the day, Borders continues to state her support for her players and the league.

"I love this league and its players. I'd never do anything to harm the league, franchises or players. I want them to understand we're here to support them. We've hit a bump in a road. This too shall pass."