Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com 363d

Sparks again stay in locker room for national anthem ahead of Game 2

WNBA, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx

MINNEAPOLIS -- As was the case Sunday for the opener of the WNBA Finals, the Los Angeles Sparks opted to stay in the locker room for the national anthem Tuesday prior to Game 2.

The host Minnesota Lynx, as they did Sunday, stood at attention during the anthem. They did not lock arms, though, as they did for Game 1.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, who is the president of the executive council of the players' union, said before the Lynx's 70-68 win to even the series that L.A. voted again to stay in the locker room.

Ogwumike and other Sparks players have reiterated the message that their actions are not meant in disrespect to anyone, but simply a way to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Minnesota guard Renee Montgomery said the Lynx also support the movement, having first shown that support last summer with warm-up shirts.

"It's something we've been doing consistently for a while now, and the message remains the same," Montgomery said.

As for the Sparks' decision to stay in the locker room, Montgomery said, "My thoughts are that whatever L.A. wanted to do, that's good for them. That's the statement they wanted to make. I hope the message was received well."

The WNBA's official rulebook states, "Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem."

Ogwumike said she and her teammates did not expect any penalty from the league but, "We understand those implications." Ogwumike informed WNBA president Lisa Borders and the Sparks' management of the team's decision before both games.

On Sunday, Borders addressed the general issue of peaceful protest by WNBA teams, which dates back to the summer of 2016 after the July shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Three WNBA teams -- New York, Indiana and Phoenix -- were initially fined by Borders for wearing non-issued warm-up shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, but then Borders decided to rescind the fines.

She did not address the Sparks specifically Sunday when she met with the media but did indicate the WNBA and NBA were supportive of their teams' peaceful protests.

"We support our players and their right to express themselves freely and fully," Borders said. "This is the culture that we have created, one that is inclusive and enjoys spirited debate and perspective from every point of view."

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