Fever's Coleman: "Sometimes...a big stand has to happen for the conversation to be started"


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - As we enter a big sports weekend, there could more professional athletes taking a knee to raise awareness about what many say is social injustice.

The Indiana Fever made national news when the entire team took a knee during Wednesday's play-off game at Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

Fever forward Marissa Coleman said the response has surprised her.

"I knew it would get some reaction, backlash, but I didn't think it would reach the magnitude it did," Coleman said. "Sometimes something drastic, a big stand has to happen for the conversation to be started."

She said that's why she and her teammates locked arms and took a knee during the national anthem.

"At that moment, I was extremely proud to know we were standing for something bigger than us," Coleman said.

Marissa Coleman
Marissa Coleman

She she idea came from Tamika Catchings, who sent a group email to players asking what they thought.

She said the decision to take a knee and and make a statement about social justice " was unanimous...It's hard to talk about these things. Nobody wants to talk about race relations or the injustices we face in this country, but we have to talk about it. There won't be any change or progress unless we have these tough conversations."

Coleman said for her, it's deeply personal.

"I have two older brothers, I have nephews and it's hard to think about what would happen if they got pulled over. I'm not saying all officers are prejudiced, but what happens if they do get that one officer?" she said. "My older brother has his doctorate, my younger brother has his masters. Are they going to see an educated man or are they just going to see an intimidating black man? So, that's our reality, African-Americans, that's our reality."

Coleman said she's heard from a lot of people, especially after sharing her thoughts on a Facebook post.

"There have been people who are like, 'thanks, I'm glad we had that conversation. I get it now," she said. "Sometimes that's all it takes to have a conversation with someone with an opposite view, so you can get their opinion, take a step back and see it through their eyes.

But she and her teammates have also faced backlash, from those calling the protest a disgrace to the flag and a slap in the face to those who fought for it.

"I could definitely see where they might find us kneeling offensive, but again, I think that's where the disconnect is," she said. "My team and I support our troops and love our country but we just wanted to take a stand for something we all believe in."

As for those who say pro athletes shouldn't be using their positions or platform to promote a cause?

"Sometimes people forget we are people, too. Yes, we play basketball, we play football, we play these sports, but that doesn't define us. That's not who we are," she said. "Sometimes it's kind of hard because we have this double standard. People don't want us to be dumb athletes,.but they don't want us to speak up and show we're educated and know what's going on in the world, and we want to make this world a better place, so it's hard when one moment we're told not to be jocks or stereotypical athletes, but when we do speak up or stand up for something, then it's stay in your place, staying in your lane."

She said even though the seasons over, the Fever hopes to do more in the coming months to "keep the conversation going."