On Wednesday night before the Mystics played the Sparks, both teams locked arms and stood together during the national anthem.
The state of solidarity and a moment of silence were held in honor of Heather Heyer, who died last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer took part in a counter protest against a group of white nationalists and alt-right demonstrators. A white nationalist drove a car last Saturday afternoon into Heyer, killing her and many other counter protestors. In addition to Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police died when their helicopter crashed near a golf course while investigating the protest.
According to Katherine Fitzgerald of USA Today, Kristi Toliver organized it on Wednesday, which the Mystics signed off on before reaching out to the Sparks about it.
Toliver also wrote a statement on behalf of both teams:
On behalf of both the Mystics and Sparks players, we feel pain and disbelief following the blatant hate displayed, and the President's response to it. There is no way to innocently protest alongside a hate-based group and to take pause on condemning the acts that took place is inexcusable.
Usually, teams stand but are separated from each other during the national anthem due to league protocol. WNBA President Lisa Borders suspended that and had a statement of her own:
“We fully support our players, who are offering a demonstration of unity that we hope America can emulate in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville. We offer our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and our support to those who were injured during the inexcusable violence that transpired.”
It should be known that last season, the WNBA faced some criticism regarding players wearing black shirts in support of Black Lives Matter — and getting fined for it. That sparked a league wide “Media Blackout” which the Mystics participated in. This season, the WNBA made the right decision by letting this go forward.
Props to Toliver, the Mystics, and the Sparks for working together to remember the victims of last Saturday’s terrorist attack.