The WNBA season is set to start later this month, and the players hope fans will marvel at their precision passes, shooting accuracy and speed during a quick break. But the league also hopes to spotlight another type of movement: the call for social justice reform.
The league has announced that it will dedicate the 2020 season to the country’s “long history of inequality, implicit bias and racism”, which has a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities.
The season will highlight the Black Lives Matter movement and the Say Her Name campaign.
For the first weekend of the season, players can wear special uniforms in honor of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police while executing a safe search warrant in March .
League officials say players can choose to wear Taylor’s name on their uniforms throughout the season.
The league and the players’ association are also discussing how to honor other women and girls of color who are “forgotten victims of violence and police violence”. WNBA statement also names Sandra Bland and Vanessa Guillen, in addition to Taylor.
Army specialist Guillen was last seen in April at Fort Hood, Texas. Last week, her body was found near the place where she disappeared. Bland died in 2015 while in police custody in Texas.
For the entire season, the WNBA says players will don warm-up shirts with “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back. “Black Lives Matter” will also be displayed on the field during matches.
“We are incredibly proud of the WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement.
Nneka Ogwumike, president of the league players’ association and striker of the Los Angeles Sparks, described this effort as a “pivotal moment” in the history of modern sport.
“With more than 140 voices united for the first time, we can be a powerful force that connects to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world,” said Ogwumike.
The WNBA also announced the formation of the WNBA / WNBPA Social Justice Council, which plans to hold a series of conversations focused on race, LGBTQ + advocacy, gun control and voting rights.
Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry tweeted, “We still have to scratch the surface to make a better America!”
“People asked, what is it that putting the names on a jersey is going to do? Well, we are planting seeds for a better future. Yes, it takes time to grow but in due course, incredible things will bloom “said McCoughtry.
Due to lingering concerns about the coronavirus, the WNBA season will be shortened and played in a “bubble” location in Florida. The NBA has similar plans.
The IMG Academy in Bradenton, about 45 miles south of Tampa, will host the 12 WNBA franchises for a regular season of 22 games, followed by a traditional playoff format.
Monday, announced league seven of 137 WNBA players tested positive for coronavirus. The league said tests were conducted between June 28 and July 5.
As NPR reported last week, the NBA has confirmed that at least 25 of its players have tested positive for the virus. They are expected to resume their season in the Orlando area later this month.
All but one of the WNBA teams were scheduled to arrive at the start of the week at the IMG Academy premises.
The league said Indiana fever had delayed their trip “by at least five days with great caution,” citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s self-quarantine guidelines.