NEW YORK (AP) – The WNBA is going to let teams choose how they stand for the national anthem for the remainder of the season.
The league confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that it has extended the suspension of the national anthem protocol put in place on Aug. 16. Over the past 10 days, teams have been able to lock arms with each other during the anthem to show their support for the victims of racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that occurred two weeks ago.
“Linking arms, showing that all of us – black, brown, white, – we’re in this together was the message we wanted to share with our country and the world. And we believed that it was our responsibility to do that,” players association president Nneka Ogwumike said. “The fact that league and team officials supported them and have extended that support now shows the depth of character in all of us.”
Originally, in a memo obtained by the AP, the league suspended its protocol until Friday night. Before suspending the protocol, the league required players to line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the national anthem.
Now, teams can continue to show their support for racial harmony.
“It wasn’t just to make noise and have it go away,” said Washington’s Kristi Toliver, who was one of the key people who pushed for players to first lock arms 10 days ago. “I think it’s important that every team wants to be involved in it will. We’re not going to force anybody. We hadn’t talked with New York about it before, but it was good to carry it on.”
Toliver was happy that the league will let the players continue their show of unity.
“I think the league showed they have our backs in the demonstrations that we decided to do.”
Two of the three games Friday night had teams intermixed during the anthem. Atlanta planned to have its season ticket holders locking arms around the court before its game on Saturday against Indiana.
Ogwumike, a Los Angeles Sparks forward, said her team has discussed doing something with Minnesota before their national televised game Sunday night.
“We talked about it and we will talk to Minnesota and see what they want to do,” Ogwumike said.
It’s the second consecutive summer that WNBA players have responded to a social issue. Last year, players wore black shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The league originally fined the players for it but then rescinded the fines.
Unlike last summer with the black shirts, the players let the league know ahead of time about their plans.