In 2010, the entire Phoenix Suns team wore shirts that read Los Suns as a statement of solidarity with the Latino people in Arizona threatened by the brutal anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070. That was the first time, according to my own research, that a professional US sports team undertook a united political stand that was sanctioned—or at least not shut down—by both coaching staff and upper management. Then in 2012, the Miami Heat posed in hoodies to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. In 2014, several NBA teams wore shirts emblazoned with the slogan “I Can’t Breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner as he was being choked to death. Management may not have sanctioned these acts, but it sure as hell was not going to stop them.
Now two more teams have come together to make a political statement. The Minnesota Lynx and the New York Liberty of the WNBA have chosen to advocate an idea that really should not be radical but somehow is, in the United States of 2016: the idea that black lives matter. The Lynx wore jet-black warm-up shirts that read on the front, “Change starts with us—Justice & Accountability.” On the back of the shirt were the names Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, both shot and killed by police officers last week. Castile’s died just a short drive from where the Lynx play, in the suburbs of St. Paul. The back of their shirts had a small Dallas police star for the police officers killed last Thursday, right over the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.”