How badass WNBA players responded when they were fined for protesting injustice.

Social justice activism took an expensive turn for several WNBA players on July 21, 2016.

Hoping to show support for victims of recent police shootings and for the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Charles Kinsey, several WNBA players wore shirts with Black Lives Matter hashtags on them to recent games.

According to the WNBA, however, these shirts are in violation of the league's uniform sponsorship policy, so the Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, and New York Liberty were each fined $5,000 for their actions. Several individual players were also fined $500 for wearing the altered shirts.



The fines were frustrating, to say the least, and many players felt the need to speak up about the hypocrisy.

The WNBA is a league comprised mostly of black players, and many of the women are actively involved in advocacy around the Black Lives Matter movement.

While the league has this policy, it's important to note that NBA president Adam Silver didn't fine LeBron James and other NBA players when they wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts in 2014. And up to this point, the league had been fairly supportive of players speaking out on issues that mattered.

Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings was one of many players who called out the hypocrisy.

"Instead of the league taking a stance with us, where they tell us they appreciate our expressing our concerns like they did for Orlando, we're fighting against each other," Catchings said.

In response to the shirts, WNBA president Lisa Borders released a statement defending the league's decision and fines, referencing the league’s uniform guidelines and reminding the league that the women are not allowed to alter their uniforms in any way.

"We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league's uniform guidelines," Borders said.

While rules are certainly rules, financially penalizing players who already make significantly less than their male counterparts in the NBA is pretty unfair... especially in a league that's been outspoken in defending a multitude of issues in the past, from LGBTQ issues to health initiatives.

Many players feel that the WNBA's lack of support for Black Lives Matter shows how out of touch the league is when it comes to the lives of its players.

Tina Charles, a player for the New York Liberty, wrote a great response about choosing activism over silence on her Instagram page:

“Seventy percent of the WNBA players are African-American women and as a league collectively impacted. My teammates and I will continue to use our platform and raise awareness for the #BlackLivesMatter movement until the WNBA [gives] its support as it does for Breast Cancer Awareness, [Pride] and other subject matters.”

With the sheer amount of women of color in the WNBA, league officials probably shouldn't be surprised that their players are outraged about the recent shootings, as race relations affect them on a personal level.

And handing out fines for players' peaceful actions represses their right to speak out against injustice and it sends a message that police brutality isn't a topic that should be discussed. Plus, the players' activism followed a legacy of many athletes' protests before them, such as Muhammad Ali being outspoken about his views of the Vietnam War, players from the St. Louis Rams marching out with their hands up after the Ferguson shooting, and LeBron James when he wore an "I Can't Breathe" shirt after Eric Garner's death.

LeBron James has been fiercely outspoken on police brutality and ending violence. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

The actions of leagues and sports teams largely affects public perceptions of issues.

When the Super Bowl pulled out of Arizona in 1990 because the state refused to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day or when the NBA announced their recent ultimatum about North Carolina's discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bathroom law, it made an unmistakable statement.

Some people tend be uncomfortable with the Black Lives Matter movement because they think it's an attack on police. In reality, Black Lives Matter was created to stop violence, not ignite it, and to call out injustice in a blatantly corrupt system. But when key players and public figures, like the women of the WNBA, stand behind issues like Black Lives Matter, even a stand as simple as T-shirts, it matters. It moves the movement forward in the best way.

The WNBA players' fight for advocacy isn't just impressive. It's American to the core.

As these women speak out against a system of injustice in a peaceful and empathetic way, I hope we can all listen.

By peacefully protesting, listening to people of color instead of ignoring them, and supporting efforts to create trust between communities of color and law enforcement, we can stand by what WNBA players and many other athletes of color have already stated: Black lives matter.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less