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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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