WNBA Players Stand Up in the Face of Fines


June 23, 2016; NBC Sports

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, more and more African American athletes are participating and showing their support. NBA players are among the loudest, and their WNBA sisters recently strengthened their refrain.

Last week, the WNBA fined three teams—the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Indiana Fever—for altering their uniforms. The players wore black T-shirts during warm-ups with references to the shooting of African American men and police officers. WNBA officials fined each team $5,000 and each player $500. (Many fans are used to professional sports members being fined. In most cases, the fines amount to a slap on the wrist, but since WNBA players’ salaries top out at $107,000, fining a player $500 is a much harder slap.)

After the fines were imposed, Liberty and Fever players boycotted their required post-game news conference and instead held their own. During their conference, players stated they would only answer questions related to Black Lives Matter.

The fines were imposed weeks after the WNBA organized activities in support of the Orlando community after the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. In those instances, six teams wore warm-up shirts reading “#ORLANDO UNITED” under a rainbow-colored heart. The WNBA and its players also organized fundraising activities and blood drives.

In the face of controversy and standoff, the WNBA rescinded the fines. President Lisa Borders tweeted:

Appreciate our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.

— WNBAPrez (@WNBAPrez) July 23, 2016

More and more players are using the sports arena to voice political outrage. They follow in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. According to a recent article in Sports Illustrated, NBA players’ voices have been by far the loudest. For example, last year, after the death of Eric Garner, many NBA players, including LeBron James and Derrick Rose, wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm-ups. They were not fined.

One of the main reasons why NBA players have used their pulpit to show their support may be their personal experiences and connections to the communities of the slain African American men. Seventy-seven percent of NBA players are black, a much higher percentage than in any other professional sport. (67 percent of NFL players are African American, and only 8.3 percent of Major League Baseball players.) Clearly, in the WNBA, where 67 percent of players are African American, these feelings are shared.

The NBA itself has not stepped away from using its strength and voicing its support for political issues, either. Last week, leadership pulled the 2017 all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to recent legislation prohibiting trans persons from using the bathroom of their gender identity.

Although the fines were rescinded, the WNBA’s decision to fine their players for actions tolerated and perhaps supported by NBA players exposes much larger cultural attitudes around the role of women and their right to show their support of their beliefs and communities.—Gayle Nelson

Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/07/26/wnba-players-stand-face-fines/


Little League Championship Team Stripped of Title


America’s Little League championship team, Jackie Robinson West (JRW), was stripped of their title last week by Little League International. Officials determined that team staff expanded the team’s residency boundaries without receiving required approval from neighboring teams. The team questioned whether they were being held to a higher standard than other teams and hired counsel. As the two sides query the other party’s activities, it is clear the feelings and actions of the young players are being ignored.

The Jackie Robinson West team thrilled many as they won game after game and progressed to the Little League Championship in Pennsylvania in August of 2014. The team, made up entirely of African-American players from the South Side of Chicago, was particularly newsworthy at a time when many African Americans have lost interest in baseball. Before progressing to play in the Championship against the team from Seoul, South Korea, JRW beat the Mountain Ridge team from Las Vegas. JRW was the first Chicago area team to progress to the international final since 1967. Although they lost to the South Korean team, JRW was beloved and even traveled to the White House to celebrate with the First Family.

Sadly, the excitement was not to last. In December, allegations surfaced that some of the players were recruited from outside of JRW’s geographic boundaries. Little League International has strict rules on where players can live. These rules are meant to create community teams where players often know each other from school and build friendships that continue off the field. The League allows neighboring teams to approve of the geographic expansion before players from these areas can play on other teams.

At that time, Little League International dismissed the complaints, stating that neighboring teams approved of the expansion. The vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association was the first to voice claims of suspicion. The team began investigating members of JRW after the Evergreen Park team lost to JRW in a sectional playoff game called after a little more than four innings. The score was 43-2. The Evergreen Park team pulled up public records, including voter and vehicle registration, to determine residency of JRW players. Evergreen Park is a mostly white suburb surrounded by the City of Chicago on three sides.

Although these initial claims of unauthorized expansions were dismissed, additional claims surfaced. Recently, officials from three neighboring teams, including the team from Rosemoor, came forward to state that they did not approve of JRW encroaching into their geographic area. The Rosemoor team’s geographic area is made up of the largely African American far south side of Chicago. After this additional evidence was revealed, the League fired JRW and district staff and stripped JRW of their championship, awarding it to the Las Vegas team.

In response, JRW hired attorney Victor Henderson to investigate whether other teams were similarly investigated. Mr. Henderson is part of the Henderson Adams Law firm. The firm has defended musician R. Kelly and government leaders including former governor Rod Blagojevich. The legal team will not only explore whether there is evidence JRW staff violated residency rules, but also whether the team is unfairly being held to a higher standard.

This is not the first time Little League teams have been stripped of their titles. In 1992, a team from Zamboanga, PA, was stripped of their title because players were from outside of their geographic area or over the age of 13. Similarly, in 2001 a team from the Bronx, New York, was forced to forfeit its games after its pitcher was discovered to be 14.

Clearly, the current controversy is far from over. But as investigations continue, questions remain whether the punishment hurts the adults responsible for any wrongdoing or whether it hurts the young players, whose integrity has never been questioned.


Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/25616-little-league-championship-team-stripped-of-title.html