LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA- Tamika Catchings, Tina Charles, Brittney Griner, the list goes on.
And one by one, the 12 dominant stars that make up the 2016 Women's National Team filed into Galen Center at the University of Southern California in preparation for tomorrow's night exhibition game, before heading off to Rio to represent the US in the Summer Olympics.
Current Mood: Hopeful
The reason- WNBA President Lisa Borders released a statement yesterday rescinding the fines that the league passed out to players and teams who protested the recent violence by wearing all-black warm-up shirts throughout the month of July.
"I'm super excited," said Tamika Catchings, "I heard directly from Lisa. We got on the call, and she told us her decision. I expressed my appreciation."
For Catchings, the Indiana Fever forward was a part of one of the three teams that were penalized for protesting. The New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury were the other two organizations who were initially slapped with fines.
As President of the Players Association, Catchings has been at the forefront in the efforts to bring together the WNBA and its players to create a more united front.
"For a long time we have been trying to get players engaged in the union," explained Catchings, "more engaged in the issues at hand, [and] having the league behind us 100 % allows us all to be on the same page and really fight for what we believe in."
Borders addressed that while the league "expects players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines," she also acknowledged the importance of using their platforms as players to bring awareness to certain societal issues.
"Black lives are in danger each and every day," explained Mercury center and Olympian, Brittney Griner, "people aren't aware or don't want to be aware, so us as athletes need to use our platform to talk about it."
And while there may be clarification between the league and its players, New York Liberty center Tina Charles wants the message, "Black Lives Matter," to also be clear.
"When people say black lives matter," explained Charles, "we aren't saying that not all lives matter, but we are saying that black lives matter too."
Sports have always been a vehicle for social change. The consumerism model of the sports industry by nature creates an audience, and the women of the WNBA understand the responsibility that comes with commanding such a stage.
"I think a lot of people know us for what we do on the basketball court," said Charles, "but to be known for who you are, that you do have a voice, and you're not just going to sit aside and let something happen when you know what is right is important."
And while there is little preparation time before the Women's National Team opens up the 2016 Olympic games against Senegal on August 7th, the events over the last month have proved beneficial to the team's chemistry.
"For everyone to put effort into something and to see a change, it feels great." said Charles "Now we are able to unite collectively on the court and go after a gold medal."
Charles' former college head coach, Team USA Head Coach Geno Auriemma, is also happy to see that the league is in full support of what his players stand for.
"I think it was obviously the right thing to do," said Coach Auriemma, "I was really proud of Tina [Charles] and my former players that stood up. They shouldn't be anything but celebrated for standing up for what they believe in. That is what is great about this country, is that you have the opportunity to do that."
With the league and players on the same side, Borders stated that they will "work with [the] players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public."
"The ultimate goal is to bring everybody together," expressed Griner, "That's all any of us want. To have unity. To not be fearful."