NEW YORK (AP) Mistie Bass, Kelsey Bone and their Mercury teammates met with Phoenix police a few weeks ago after practice.
It was an eye-opening experience and an encouraging one for the disheartened Bass.
''That was such a great opportunity for us to ask some great questions. I don't think the system that is in place in Phoenix is the system in place everywhere,'' Bass said after practice Friday as Phoenix prepared for the second round of the WNBA playoffs. ''To see a model that is so crystal clear and to talk about their training and how much training they get.''
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Bass said she learned the Phoenix police go through simulated processes for shoot or no-shoot situations. She was impressed officers have to pass those tests or return to training.
Bass and Bone applaud the Phoenix police, but they also see police shootings of black men as a national problem. Bone first started kneeling during the national anthem a few weeks ago following what San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did at a preseason game.
Bass, a Duke graduate whose father is singer Chubby Checker, joined Bone on Wednesday, kneeling before the Mercury's playoff game against Indiana. The entire Fever team also knelt and locked arms that game. The pair said they will do it again Saturday night before Phoenix's game against the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden. Bass expects many of the Liberty players to join.
''For me personally, my heart is too heavy to be able to stand,'' Bass said. ''The systematic reasoning of the flag in general is freedom, justice and liberty and that's not for everybody it seems.''
Fever player Marissa Coleman shared via Facebook on Thursday a lengthy post explaining her decision to protest during the anthem. She explained she has family who served in the military and her father is a retired police officer.
Coleman wrote ''The bigger disrespect to this country and those who fight for it is staying silent on these issues that plague African-Americans and people of color.''
Bone had her own reason for kneeling.
''As someone who grew up in the South, my dad's side of the family is from Birmingham, Alabama, and my grandparents on my mom's side are from Louisiana,'' Bone said. ''I've seen racism my whole life. Me kneeling isn't to call an end to racism. To me, we live in a country that's built on some form of racism. You're not going to get rid of it.''
Bone's dad is 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds. Her uncles are just as large.
''They are big black dudes,'' she said. ''I'd be doing a disservice to my family and my heritage if I didn't use my platform and my voice. For the past three years of my life, I live in Turkey. Every year there's been bombing, terror and issues. The first thing I wanted to do is run home. But what is home? Am I any safer at home than a country that is terror-stricken?''
All three players know there is a lot of work to be done, but this is a starting place.
''By people seeing our protests it opens up conversations,'' Bass said. ''Conversations are always a good thing as it gets people talking and hopefully that will lead to change.''
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