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Liberty players discuss race relations after win over Stars

Liberty forward Swin Cash, center, speaks with the

Liberty forward Swin Cash, center, speaks with the media about their #Black Lives Matter and #Dallas5 T-shirts. Along with her are teammates Tina Charles (left) and Tanisha Wright. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Swin Cash’s voice rose, impassioned and deliberate, from a panel of five Liberty players wearing matching black T-shirts that read, “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#Dallas5” on the front. Cash said it’s “not a moment, it’s a movement.”

Each Liberty player wore the shirt, which also read, “#________” on the back (Cash said that symbolizes the revolving door of hashtags that have followed recent tragedies), during warm-ups and after beating the San Antonio Stars, 75-65, on Sunday at the Garden.

Basketball seemed trivial compared to the postgame dose of reality, as Cash, Carolyn Swords, Kiah Stokes, Tina Charles and Tanisha Wright discussed race relations in the country and the interaction between African-Americans and law enforcement. Some shared anecdotes on how race affects their lives.

The T-shirts, they said, are a conversation-starter. Cash said they show support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, aimed at recognizing injustices against African-Americans, and are a way to mourn the five policemen killed last week by a gunman in Dallas.

“I don’t think you can play basketball, have a platform we have and not be a voice for people that are voiceless,” Cash said, adding that the team did not seek permission from the league before wearing the shirts. “For us, collectively as a group, we decided this is something we needed to do and do it today here in New York.”

Cash said racial discrimination is a reality for her, her teammates and people in her life, including a family member who was badly beaten in an altercation with the police. She said she fears she or her husband may be hurt or discriminated against because of race and said the constant news stories of racial violence are “like somebody pulling off a scab.”

“I think it’s always been very taboo to mix politics or social issues with athletes because they always talk about how economically it could affect you,” Cash said. “The scariest part for me right now is that stories that I used to hear from my grandmother, stuff that happened in the civil rights [movement], how she used to talk about how the world was and things that needed to change. It’s like the bogeyman’s come back out of the closet and those things that used to be are now being brought to the forefront once again.”

Said Wright: “I feel very strongly about police brutality and the loss of black lives that are happening around America right now, and if we want change, then we’ve got to have a voice. We’ve got to be willing to not be popular in some people’s eyes and we’ve got to be able to voice the injustices that are happening.”

Notes & quotes: Amanda Zahui B scored 14 points, Sugar Rodgers 11, and Charles and Shavonte Zellous 10 each for the Liberty (15-6). Swords had eight points and 11 rebounds. Monique Currie’s 17 points led San Antonio (5-15).

New York Sports