Sparks, Lynx protest anthem before WNBA finals

(TSX / STATS) -- MINNEAPOLIS -- Silent protests of President Donald Trump's comments about pro athletes refusing to stand for the national anthem carried over to the WNBA on Sunday.

Prior to Game One of the WNBA Finals, members of the Minnesota Lynx and their coaches stood at attention with arms locked together while a trumpet player delivered a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner."

The Los Angeles Sparks retreated to their locker room prior to the anthem and were not on the court while the song played.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike said the protest was inspired by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before their game in Chicago, every Steeler but Alejandro Villanueva remained in the locker room for the anthem.

"It was honestly a very spur-of-the-moment kind of thing," Ogwumike said. "We were obviously on our phones on our way to the game, and when we got to the locker room Candace (Parker) had shown everyone the remarks by the head coach of the Steelers (Mike Tomlin).

"We completely resonated with everything he said. It's not about showing any kind of disrespect. With athletes, we want to be able to be on this main stage and lead our communities and set an example. What we agreed with is what the head coach of the Steelers said. Some people may want to kneel, some may not want to, but we wanted to show everyone that the team does as the team does. So we want to stand in solidarity together and stand by our mission. And that's in unity and togetherness and we felt that we wanted to also show our respect for other people who understand how important it is for us to be together at this time."

The Sparks returned when the anthem concluded and were met with some boos from the Minnesota fans upon getting to their bench.

"It wasn't any disrespect at all to the Minnesota fans," Ogwumike said. "It was a very spur-of-the-moment type situation and I think a lot of people were confused when they didn't see us out there. But that's what it was about."

On Friday during a speech in Alabama, Trump remarked that athletes who do not stand for the national anthem should be fired. His remarks drew immediate condemnation from athletes and NFL owners, and anthem protests were a common sight at pro football stadiums on Sunday.

Updated September 24, 2017