WNBA Players' Racial Justice Charge Altered League Perception
WNBA players "didn't just refuse to 'shut up and dribble'" amid a national reckoning on racial injustice, they "collectively organized multiple campaigns from inside their bubble while amplifying the names and stories of other Black women, lending their platform to a larger cause in a way that no sports league ever has before," according to Chantel Jennings of THE ATHLETIC. The WNBA players this year "changed the interpretation of where sports fit in American culture." They broadened the scope of "not just how others see them, but also how they see themselves because of what they said and did, and how they led." Chicago Sky G Sydney Colson, a member of the league's newly created Social Justice Council, "had wanted to connect with the organization to make sure the players were honoring the women behind the hashtag." Colson knew that the WNBA was "about to have more nationally televised games than it ever had before." She "knew that having every single team within a square mile of each other" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., "would create opportunities to organize in a way they hadn't before." As the WNBA continued to honor women ahead of each game, it "wasn't just performative -- the players had learned these women's stories firsthand from family members." The women of the WNBA are "at the nexus of so many of these issues, and their intersectionality makes them the league and the people to lead on it" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/16).
LEADING THE CAUSE: In N.Y., Abrams & Weiner write the breadth of action among WNBA players is "unparalleled among professional sports leagues." They include singular efforts from L.A. Sparks G Seimone Augustus's "opposition to a ballot measure in Minnesota aimed at amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage" and Minnesota Lynx F Maya Moore's basketball sabbatical "to focus on criminal justice reform," ultimately helping free Jonathan Irons from a 50-year prison sentence in July. Efforts also include Washington Mystics G Natasha Cloud's "fight against gun violence." The initiatives often involve "unified undertakings, such as the league's dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor ... and the players' collective stand against" Atlanta Dream co-Owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R -Ga.). This offseason many players have "quickly transitioned from playing basketball to focusing on encouraging people to vote" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).