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Carmelo Anthony supports WNBA players upset by T-shirt fines

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Tina Charles: We're going to keep using our platform (2:03)

Tina Charles talks about the Fever, Liberty and Mercury being fined for wearing black warm-up shirts in the wake of recent shootings by and against police officers. (2:03)

NEW YORK -- WNBA players aren't the only ones who can't understand why their social activism has resulted in fines by the league.

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has their backs, too.

The Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury and their players were fined by the WNBA for wearing black warm-up shirts in the wake of recent shootings by and against police officers.

All three teams were fined $5,000 and each player was fined $500, as the shirts violated the league's uniform policy. While the black shirts were the Adidas brand -- the official outfitter of the league -- WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way.

"What's most upsetting is the way it was handled," Indiana Fever player rep Briann January said. "You have a league that is 90 -- if not above 90 -- percent African-American and you have an issue that is directly affecting them and the people they know, and you have a league that isn't willing to side with them.

"It's not a race issue, not an anti-police issue, not a black or white issue. It's a right or wrong issue."

Anthony, among those trying to get athletes to take a more active role in social issues, agrees with January and her fellow players that the fines are misguided.

"I don't see no reason to fine them. If anything, you should want to support them," Anthony said Thursday. "I don't know details, but don't see a reason to fine them.

"A bunch of teams did it and individuals did it. Everybody has their own freedom of speech. If they decide to use the platforms to do that, I don't see any reasons for anybody to get fined. We did it. The NBA did it two years ago. The NBA was very supportive. I don't see why it would be different this time."

WNBA president Lisa Borders said Wednesday night in a statement to The Associated Press that the fines were not about the players speaking out on a social issue.

"We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league's uniform guidelines," Borders said.

Nonetheless, Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings, who is retiring at the end of the season and is the president of the players' union, expressed disappointment in the WNBA's actions.

"Instead of the league taking a stance with us, where they tell us they appreciate our expressing our concerns like they did for Orlando, we're fighting against each other," she said, referencing the Orlando nightclub shooting that resulted in 49 deaths.

The league was quick to give every team shirts in the wake of the Orlando tragedy in June, and the players wore them.

"We were OK with that, we wanted to support that, but also they can't pick and choose what initiatives to support and what not to support just because it doesn't push their agenda," Liberty guard Tanisha Wright said. "This is important to us."

Typical WNBA fines for technical fouls or such are about half the $500 amount the players were fined for wearing the black shirts. WNBA rookies like New York's Adut Bulgak make roughly $40,000, so the fine is about 1/80th of a first-year player's salary.

The Liberty have worn the plain black shirts four times, including Wednesday morning against Washington. They didn't wear them on Thursday in their matinee game against the Fever, opting for their normal black shirts with the Liberty logo. Tina Charles did wear her warm-up shirt inside out.

"After seeing the African-American male shot three times after helping an autistic person out this morning in Florida, I knew I couldn't be silent," Charles said after the Liberty lost to the Fever. "Knowing the player I am representing this organization, if anybody was going to wear it, it had to be me. I have no problem wearing this shirt inside out for the rest of the season until we are able to have the WNBA support us."

In a show of solidarity, the Liberty and Fever chose to speak after the game only about social awareness, politely declining any questions about Thursday's contest.

Charles is looking forward to discussing future actions at the Olympics, where she'll have a chance to talk with her teammates on the women's national team and NBA players on the U.S. men's team.

"Being able to see how they feel and what they want to do, coming collectively together," Charles said. "Seeing the other 11 WNBA teams, how we basically just did a media blackout, if they are up for doing the same thing."

The Washington Mystics followed the Liberty and Fever's lead after playing the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.

"We definitely wanted to show our support for those teams that did get fined for wearing just plain black Adidas shirts," Mystics guard Natasha Cloud said, according to USA Today. "We're allowed to wear whatever we want to the games, to and from the games, so if they're going to take away our right and our voice to advocate for something so important to 70 percent of the league which is African-American, we'll find other ways to do it, and other ways to do it is to wear our shirts to and from the game and use the media to [express ourselves]."

NBA players previously have taken a stand in support of victims of police brutality without being fined. LeBron James and Derrick Rose wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts in honor of a Staten Island man who died after police placed him a choke hold in 2014. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement after the players wore the shirts that he supported the players for expressing their personal views but preferred they adhere to on-court attire rules.

No NBA players wore the "I Can't Breathe" shirts after Silver's statements.

The WNBA fined players after they ignored a league memo earlier this week to the teams reminding them of the uniform policy. The memo was sent out after Minnesota, New York and Dallas players wore shirts in remembrance of two men who were shot by police and the five Dallas police officers who were killed in an attack on July 7.

The Lynx wore their shirts only once and said they will shift their focus to addressing the issue in other ways. After wearing shirts with "#BlackLivesMatter" and "#Dallas5" for one game, the Liberty reached what the players said was a compromise, wearing plain black shirts bearing only the Adidas logo. For now they are back to wearing their normal warm-ups.

The league will go on a monthlong Olympic hiatus beginning Saturday, but January said players will continue to actively engage in the social discussion.

"I think there's a lot of people in our league who are very passionate about it. As a player rep we are going to continue having these conversations," she said. "The timing of them releasing the statement and giving us the papers was very timely on their part."

Information from ESPN's Ian Begley and The Associated Press was used in this report.