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Indiana Fever franchise, player release statements as fans remain split on team kneeling during national anthem

Indiana Fever players kneel during the national anthem on Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Mykal McEldowney/ IndyStar)

Indiana Fever players kneel during the national anthem on Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Mykal McEldowney/ IndyStar)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Wednesday night’s Indiana Fever game has got a lot of people talking, but it has nothing to do with it being star Tamika Catchings’ last game or the Fever’s loss which brought their season to an end.

Instead the talk is all about what happened before the game, when the entire team took a knee and locked arms during the national anthem–a sign of protest against racial injustice. This is just the latest in what has become a growing number of sports figures taking a knee during the national  anthem as a sign of protest.

It started several weeks ago with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick doing that and since then athletes from professional soccer, several NFL teams and now the Fever following suit. Opinions on the Fever players’ display were split with some fans outraged and  others supportive.

“Everybody has their freedom of speech, and they can do whatever they feel is right and I have no problem with it,” said Doreen Newton, who supports the Fever’s demonstration.

“I thought it was very disrespectful,” said fan Chuck Wolfe, “I didn’t like it, so I left the game as soon as the national anthem was over.”

But despite Coach Stephanie White’s support, the team could face penalties. According to the league’s officials rules, “players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.”

Earlier this summer, the Fever and several of its players were fined by the WNBA for wearing black t-shirts before a game to show support for African Americans killed in police action shootings. That penalty was later rescinded by the league.

In a statement following last night’s game, WNBA President Lisa Borders said, “I support our players expressing their views on important social issues. 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.”

At this point, there’s no word on whether or not the WNBA will take action against the Fever following Wednesday night’s demonstration.

Pacers Sports and Entertainment issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“During the Indiana Fever versus Phoenix Mercury playoff game last night, the Fever players conducted a silent protest by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. While Pacers Sports and Entertainment believes that our players should follow WNBA protocol, which is to stand respectfully during the anthem, we also understand that they have the right to have their voices heard. We are very proud of our role in serving the community in Indianapolis and it is our hope going forward that we can collaborate with the players in a positive way, create opportunities for meaningful discussions, and contribute to a stronger, safer and more unified community.”

In the meantime, this issue is one that other leagues are taking note of too. ESPN reports that just this week, NBA officials and the players union agreed to work together to address possible protests by players during the upcoming season.

Fever player Marissa Coleman posted this message on social media:

Coleman’s statement reads:

I have close family friends that have served this country. My brother in law fought for this country. My boyfriend was in the navy. My dad is a retired police officer. I would never disrespect them or devalue their service. My question is, why is it when you stand for something it is automatically assumed you’re against the opposite?? It makes no sense to me. I promise it is humanly possible and okay to be for Black Lives Matters, still support the hard working and dedicated officers and know that all lives matters. I promise it’s humanly possible to take a knee to spark conversations/bring awareness and still support our troops. I promise. You should try it.

The bigger disrespect to this country and those who fight for it is staying silent on these issues that plague African-Americans and people of color. It’s easy to sit behind a phone or keyboard and tell me I’m a bad American, or if I hate it so much I should leave. That’s easy. That only takes 140 characters or less. Standing up for change (or in this case kneeling), that takes courage. Instead of jumping to conclusions and believing us taking a knee is a direct disrespect to our troops and those who have fought for our freedom, why not ASK myself or my teammates what our end goals and purposes are. ITS THAT SIMPLE. A woman came up to my teammates and I while we were at dinner last night and politely asked us, “I just want to know if your taking a knee means you don’t support our troops? What was the purpose.” She wasn’t angry nor were we. You know what happened? A healthy and informative dialogue between us all. We explained ourselves, she listened, really listened and walked away saying “thank you for explaining everything, I get it now.” Goal accomplished: conversation started

If speaking up/taking a knee and bringing awareness to issues that directly effect my family and I, makes me a bad American….so be it. My brothers, my nephew, my dad, could have easily been that “big, black man that looks like trouble”, in Tulsa.

For those who have sent me hate messages/tweets or said you’re no longer a fan….what kind of American are you? How are you attempting to help change this country for the better? I’m almost positive if I asked, you all are the same ones who want to “make America great again”.

I’ve been told to stay in my lane and “just play basketball”. Basketball is what I do, it is NOT who I am. I will not be confined to the lines of my sport. Those who expect my teammates and I to simply play basketball are missing out on some phenomenal and educated women. Women who impact their communities in many ways.

I have a platform, and it would be a disservice not using it.