GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Seimone Augustus grew up in Louisiana, not far from where Alton Sterling was shot this month. She knows that could have easily been someone she knew.
“I lived three or four blocks from where the incident happened. It’s always in the back of my mind that it could have been a relative, a friend, a teammate a high school classmate,” she said.
She’s sad to see what has happened to her hometown where relations have broken down. Three police officers were shot and killed a few weeks ago.
“I have relatives in law enforcement as well. I don’t want to see it happen either way. That could have been an uncle or cousin,” Augustus said. “I have plenty of relatives in (Baton Rouge) law enforcement. I don’t know what we have to do to make it more proactive for the officers to be there in the communities to shrink the divide that is there.”
Augustus and her USA Basketball teammates spent time Monday in Los Angeles as part of Carmelo Anthony’s town hall meeting with community leaders, police officers and teenagers.
That two-hour sitdown was a powerful meeting.
“It was amazing,” USA teammate Brittney Griner said. “It was good to have officers come out, to have the community members come out and us as players come to together and voice and answer questions. For the cops not to be forced to be there and be there on their own was special. To hear both sides and try to come to a common ground. When something good starts happening, good outcomes start happening.”
Griner too can see both sides. Her father was a police officer for many years in Houston. She has other family members as well in law enforcement.
“I worry about my sister, I worry about my dad who wants to go back into law enforcement,” Griner said. “I told him if you do go back I’d rather you go behind a desk or teach. My dad was a good cop. I think more good cops should go back and give back that experience to the academy to help educate future police officers.”
Griner was saddened by all that has gone on lately in the U.S. in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Dallas and other places.
“All the violence towards black lives saddens me,” she said. “We fight for freedom, we fight for equality. We fight for all these things and we’re not holding up for what we stand for. It’s a change that needs to happen.”
Griner and her Phoenix Mercury teammates along with two other teams were fined $500 by the league for wearing their plain black shirts because it was a uniform violation. That fine was later rescinded.
The Minnesota Lynx started the social activism in the WNBA, wearing t-shirts and holding a pregame press conference earlier this month before the Mercury, Indiana Fever and New York Liberty wore their plain black shirts. Augustus said that it was actually coach Cheryl Reeve, who is an assistant with the U.S. Olympic team, who first had the idea to do something.
The Lynx activism spread and brought all galvanized the WNBA players.
“That’s what I am impressed about most,” said Tamika Catchings, who spoke at the town hall. “The fact that all 144 players in the WNBA came together on this issue and wanted to make sure their voices were heard. I think when you look at the power of African American women and being able to step up and join causes and support other brothers, that’s what it’s all about.”
While the WNBA is on break for the month of August for the Olympics, the players will continue to try and come up with ideas to further show the importance of this issue. Just don’t expect any sort of activism at the Olympics on the court. The IOC frown upon any social activism displays at the Olympics saying that the Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstrations.
“Right now we’re focused on these two weeks,” Diana Taurasi said. “If it comes up though, we won’t shy away from it.”
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