<
>

U.S. women reflect on personal experiences following town hall

U.S. Olympic women's basketball team players reflected on a day filled with powerful and emotional moments at Carmelo Anthony's Monday town hall meeting in Los Angeles with community leaders, police officers and teenagers.

Team USA and Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus discussed how recent police-related shootings in her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had affected her.

On July 5, a Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed Alton Sterling, a black man outside of a convenience store. Three police officers were also shot and killed in Baton Rouge on July 17.

She knows that could have easily been someone she knew.

"I lived three or four blocks from where the [Sterling] incident happened," she said. "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's sad to see what has happened to her hometown, where relations have broken down.

"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."

"[The town hall meeting] 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 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 can also see both sides. Her father was a police officer for many years in Houston. She also has other family members 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 happened lately in Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Dallas and other cities.

"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 news conference earlier this month before the Mercury, Indiana Fever and New York Liberty wore their plain black shirts. Augustus said it was coach Cheryl Reeve who first had the idea to do something. Reeve is also an assistant with the U.S. Olympic team.

The Lynx activism spread and 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 August during 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 International Olympics Committee frown upon any social activism displays, 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."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.