The Indiana Fever hosted the Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday for the first game of the WNBA playoffs, but the start of the postseason wasn’t the only news at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Mark McClune of CBS 5 in Phoenix shared a photo of Fever players kneeling during the national anthem before tipoff, as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has done prior to NFL games this season:
Mechelle Voepel of espnW pointed out the Mercury's Kelsey Bone and Mistie Bass also took a knee during the anthem:
According to Voepel, Indiana head coach Stephanie White commended her team for the action.
“I’m proud of y’all for doing that together, being in that together," she said. "That’s big. That’s big. It’s bigger than basketball, right? Bigger than basketball.”
The Fever’s protest of police violence and racial injustice in the United States was similar to what Kaepernick has done on the football field. He sat during the national anthem in the preseason but started kneeling after meeting with former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks training-camp long snapper Nate Boyer, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.
Kaepernick explained to NFL.com's Steve Wyche in August that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Kaepernick said he has received death threats for his protests, per Wagoner, who noted the quarterback “hasn’t alerted team security to those threats because he believes if something were to happen to him, it would only be proving his point.”
The Fever's decision to kneel during Wednesday’s anthem follows two recent incidents in which police officers shot and killed black men Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott in Oklahoma and North Carolina, respectively, per Sports Illustrated.
The protest has spread beyond Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid. Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster and Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall are among the NFL players who have also kneeled during the national anthem, and Commissioner Roger Goodell praised the players’ activism, per Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.
It hasn’t just been NFL players, as Indiana and Phoenix demonstrated Wednesday. United States women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe also kneeled before international friendlies in September.
NBA players have reacted to Crutcher's death on their social media pages.
Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade responded on Instagram:
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook each used similar visuals (Paul’s can be found here, and Westbrook’s can be found here) in expressing their frustration with the situation, and Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo reacted on Instagram as well:
Wednesday was not the first time WNBA players have attempted to raise awareness about racial injustice in the country. Voepel pointed out Bass and Indiana's Briann January were among those who donned shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement during warm-ups in January. They were initially fined before the league rescinded the punishments.