When video of the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile went viral, Swin Cash and members of the WNBA wanted to make a statement about the injustices in America. Cash, her New York Links teammates, and members of the Indiana Fever decided to wear all-black in protest before the game.
Unfortunately, the players received criticism from some and were fined by the WNBA. The league issued a $5,000 punishment to each team and $500 to each players. It was a $300 increase from the normal uniform violation. Players decided to protest the fines by refusing to speak about game-related issues following a game after the fines were issued.
The WNBA has since withdrew the fines and the players are currently on break for the Olympics. Cash recently spoke with rolling out to discuss the importances of using her platform to call attention to issues around the world.
When you guys got a chance to see the violence against Alton Sterling and Philando Catile, was there an initial plan to speak out what’s going on in America isn’t right?
To be honest with you, it happened organically with our team and then with the body of the league. It really started out as a group chat with the teams. A lot of players on my team were all on the same group chat and we started asking the questions like, ‘Did you see that? How is this happening?’ With a heightened sense of emotion, a lot of players were like, we can’t be silent, we have to use this platform we have with such a diverse fanbase to be change agents. So that’s when we really started galvanizing around the idea of what we can do to create a dialogue in order to have change.
Would you call what you guys did a silent protest?I don’t think anything that we’ve done has been more of a silent protest. I think it has been one that has called for the recognition of the injustices that has been happening in our society. I think without losing the perspective of us having a job to do which is go out there and play basketball, we took it as an opportunity to use our time to recognize what’s happening and make people aware of it.
The WNBA took issue with the warm-up situation. What was the biggest issue regarding the WNBA?
Well, obviously with the things that have come out, you would have to ask them directly how they felt. But from what we were told, it was more of, they support us for using our platform, but they wanted us to comply with what the policy for the uniforms. We were not complying with the uniform standard that was issued and with respect to the sponsors, we understood that this is business. So instead of wearing our ‘BlackLivesMatter’ shirts, we decided to wear all-black shirts so you can still see the logo on it and that’s when we got fined. When we received word from the league, it felt like it was very heavy-handed toward the players. The players felt like they didn’t want their voices to be silenced.
Did you guys feel like it was a double-standard between Adam Silver supporting the LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and others when they wore their “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts and what happened with you guys in the WNBA?
We immediately started asking questions to make sure that it wasn’t a double-standard, but to also look at it as an opportunity to engage the league to make sure things were clear across the board. For us, we thought what was done last year was tremendous and we commend them on that. But we wanted to stand on our own truth and our own purpose and also make sure that we were continuing to push this movement forward. I think the traction really started picking up once we started to receive the fines from the WNBA. It’s not like WNBA players make a ton of money with our jobs and our contracts. A lot of the contracts for the WNBA are a lot less than the men and a lot of women go overseas during the off-season where they make a lot more money. We don’t want to be silenced just because of a fine, so we took the hit. I think if you stand in your power and in your truth, then you’re able to sleep at night with it.
Once the fines were handed out, you guys didn’t speak about anything basketball related after the game. How did you guys come to that conclusion?
We made a statement at the beginning for the basketball game. It was a statement to all the reporters and columnists that wanted to know about the game. We gave them the opportunity to speak about the game, and then we went on from there to say that everything else should be based around what’s happening right now. For us, that was an opportunity to say, OK we are going to comply and give you the opportunity to speak about things related to basketball, but right now, our purpose is based around what’s happening. We stood in solidarity with Indiana and they did the same thing in their locker-room so it was very powerful. I think that’s why so many people saw the video and were able to hear what we were saying and connect with us. You can see it on YouTube and it has over one million views.
How do you want to inspire others to take a stand?
Right now, we look at this as a movement for us. We’re just looking at ways that we can continue to help the community back home and across the country. We will be aligning ourselves with organizations that have the same vision that we have, and have the ability and infrastructure to help with these causes. The most important thing that people need to realize is, yes, this is happening right now and we are committed to making sure that things do not die down and that people are committed to the change. I want people to understand that we as WNBA players are not for the violence that’s going on toward police, and we are not saying that other lives don’t matter. But at this point and time right now, Black lives do matter and this cause is very important and we want to continue to support that. We thank the people that are supporting us and that are committed to the change.