Liberty players, coaches lock arms for anthem; 2 Mercury players sit

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Sunday, September 25, 2016

New York Liberty coaches and players -- except for one -- interlocked arms as a show of solidarity and two Phoenix Mercury players knelt during the national anthem prior to the teams' playoff game on Saturday night in New York.

"We want to stand united, we want to stand together," said Liberty forward Amanda Zahui B. after the Mercury's 101-94 win. "There's a lot going on in this country right now, and we just want to stand firm and show that we all are one."

The Mercury players, Mistie Bass and Kelsey Bone, also knelt before the team's win over Indiana on Wednesday. The Liberty's Brittany Boyd sat on the bench with her head bowed during the anthem Saturday.

Bone explained that, by kneeling, she hopes to help spur the national conversation about social injustice in the wake of the recent police shootings that resulted in the deaths of African-American men.

"It's not to be disrespectful, it's to shed light," she said. "Our flag is the most notable thing in this country, so when people see that, the conversation starts. And that's to keep the conversation alive."

Athletes from around the nation have joined in kneeling during the anthem at various sporting events as part of a protest movement to call attention to racial injustice around the country. It was sparkedby San Francisco 49ersquarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the anthem in preseason games this year.

Boyd said she had been inspired by Kaepernick and hadn't stood for the national anthem for several games.

"I think it's important for me to use my platform. I think it's important for me to stand up for what I believe in. I think it's important for me to stand in solidarity with Colin and what he's doing," said Boyd, who wore a Kaepernick jersey to Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

There was no audible response to Boyd's protest or the Mercury players' protest from the crowd at the arena. Bass was among the most outspoken players in the league earlier this year during a controversy in which WNBA players were initially fined for wearing T-shirts during warm-ups that supported the Black Lives Matter movement. The fines were later rescinded.

The league released a statement from WNBA president Lisa Borders after the Mercury players and the entire Indiana Fever team knelt during the national anthem before Wednesday's game.

"I support our players expressing their views on important social issues," Borders said. "Standing for an anthem is a sign of respect and a demonstration of unity across many cultures throughout the world.

"The call to action is for all of us to invest time and resources to help rebuild and strengthen our communities. And we have been actively working with the players on this next impactful effort."