Swin Cash’s voice rose up, impassioned and deliberate, from a panel of five Liberty players wearing matching black T-shirts that read, “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#Dallas5” on the front. It’s “not a moment, it’s a movement,” Cash said.
The Liberty wore these shirts, which also read, “#________” on the back, during warm-ups and after beating the San Antonio Stars, 75-65, Sunday at the Garden.
But basketball seemed trivial compared to the dose of reality after the game, as Cash, Carolyn Swords, Kiah Stokes, Tina Charles and Tanisha Wright discussed race relations in the country and the interaction between African-Americans and law enforcement. And some shared anecdotes on how race affects their daily lives.
The T-shirts, they said, were a conversation starter. Cash said they show support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, aimed at recognizing injustices against African-Americans, and are a way to mourn the five policemen killed this week by a gunman during a protest in Dallas. She added that the back of the shirt symbolizes the revolving door of hashtags that have followed recent tragedies.
“I don’t think you can play basketball, have a platform we have, and not be a voice for people that are voiceless,” Cash said, adding that the team did not seek permission from the league before wearing the shirts. “For us, collectively as a group, we decided this is something we needed to do and do it today here in New York.”
Cash said racial discrimination is a reality for her, her teammates and people in her life, including a family member who was badly beaten in an altercation with the police. She added she fears she or her husband may be hurt or discriminated against because of race and said the constant news stories of racial violence are “like somebody pulling off a scab.”
“I think it’s always been very taboo to mix politics or social issues with athletes because they always talk about how economically it could affect you,” Cash said.
“The scariest part for me right now is that stories that I used to hear from my grandmother, stuff that happened in the civil rights [movement], how she used to talk about how the world was and things that needed to change. It’s like the boogeyman’s come back out of the closet and those things that used to be are now being brought to the forefront once again.”
Added Wright: “I feel very strongly about police brutality and the loss of black lives that are happening around America right now and if we want change then we’ve got to have a voice. We’ve got to be willing to not be popular in some people’s eyes and we’ve got to be able to voice the injustices that are happening.”
Notes & quotes: The Liberty never trailed, but was leading by only three at the end of the third quarter, before jumping ahead 69-56 with about four minutes left. Amanda Zahui B, who had eight points in the fourth and 14 total, led the way. Sugar Rodgers had 11 points and Charles and Shavonte Zellous each added 10.