The Los Angeles Sparks have used the biggest platform available to them in their sport, the WNBA Finals, to make a statement about police brutality. According to TMZ, Sparks forward Essence Carson clarified why the Sparks were engaging in their protest of leaving the floor as the national anthem played, returning after its end to loud boos no matter if the Sparks were the home team or the away team.

“Everyone’s so focused on the flag. It’s not even about the flag. It’s about racial equality, criminal justice reform, police brutality and everything along those lines and I feel people are forgetting that,” Carson said.

In a stark contrast to the NBA, which owns the WNBA, players are not shackled by a reactionary rule that forces players to stand for the national anthem, or even requires them to be on the court, as the LA Sparks four game protest clearly shows.

The Sparks as a team have been seen at the forefront of the WNBA’s activism, which is quite remarkable because there is no professional league that has matched the WNBA’s commitment to using their status as athletes to take a stand. Unlike the NFL, these women did not have to be cajoled by “President” Donald Trump to make their stances.

After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Carson’s teammate Nneka Ogwumike spoke to Think Progress:

“We just want to stand united in lieu of the socio-political climate, just to remind everyone that it’s important to stay together in the midst of some tumultuous times.”

For that game, the Sparks and the Mystics locked arms at the center of the court, and probably only were not booed by the crowd because they did stand for the anthem.

The Sparks voted in their locker room not to continue their protest as a team for game five of the WNBA Finals, but it didn’t matter, because their statement and stance is known. The crowd booed them anyway. Which proves Carson’s underlying point that it isn’t the thought of protesting a flag or an anthem but it is the action of protesting itself that is setting people against athletes.

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