The Indiana Fever, playing for their season in an elimination game against the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the WNBA playoffs, collectively took a knee and linked arms during the national anthem on Wednesday night in Indianapolis. Two Mercury players joined them.
"It was unanimous that we were going to do it together," Fever wing Marissa Coleman told ESPN. "We have a platform, and I think it's a disservice if we don't use it. This was bigger than basketball. As important as this game was, there are other things going on in this world. It's just to get conversations started."
The Fever join a growing group of athletes (including NFL and NBA players), state senators, and an ESPN analyst in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem and racial injustice.
After the death of Terence Crutcher at the hands of police this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman joined the chorus of voices pleading for the conversation to return to social justice.
"The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together to make people aware that this is not right," Sherman said. "It’s not right for people to get killed in the street."
Though Fever coach Stephanie White didn't join her players in kneeling, she enthusiastically supported their decision before the game.
"I'm proud of y'all for doing that together. Being in that together," White told the team. "That's big. That's big. It's bigger than basketball, right? Bigger than basketball. Alright? So let's go out and let's use that energy. Let's use that togetherness on the floor."
The Fever lost, ending their season and the promise of further protests. But the Indianapolis Star spoke to three Indiana Pacers players, in attendance for the game, who seemed open to the possibility of carrying the Fever's protest over to the NBA season.
“There’s a lot of things going on, you know? And we only wear jerseys on the court,” Pacers wing CJ Miles said. “We definitely understand what’s going on out there, and it’s something that could happen to us on the street as well. If we can help each other and make a difference, that’s what we should be doing. We should be supporting each other, trying to better the world.”
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.