Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

WNBA games called off as players put spotlight on racial injustice and show solidarity with NBA

Published on August 26, 2020

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WNBA players decided to not play three games scheduled for Wednesday night showing solidarity with NBA teams who also refused to play as a strong statement against racial injustice in light of police brutality including the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, and the subsequent murder of protesters this past week in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams spoke on behalf of players to address the decision.

“After speaking with representatives from teams playing tonight, as well as our WNBPA leadership, the consensus is to not play in tonight’s slate of games, and to kneel, lock arms and raise fists during the national anthem,” Wiliams said. “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA. And we’ll continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action.”

The action of the players falls in line with their commitment to focus on social justice issues this season. The league and the player’s union, the WNBPA, announced a slate of activities in June that would support player efforts to highlight racial inequality and police violence against Black people.

The league’s official statement on the evening’s games:

“The WNBA announced that the three games scheduled for this evening have been postponed.  Information regarding rescheduling of the games will be provided when available.”

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert praised the actions of the players in an interview on ESPN: “I respect their decision tonight. I support it.”

The Milwaukee Bucks were the first NBA team to announce they would not take the court today amid the NBA playoffs, and the rest of the teams quickly followed suit. Athletes from both leagues praised the initial actions of the Bucks. Both the NBA and WNBA are playing in isolated conditions, restricted-access bubble environments in Florida, due to the coronavirus epidemic. The NBA is at Walt Disney World in the Orlando area while the WNBA’s temporary headquarters are at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Tonight’s WNBA games included:

  • Washington Mystics (4-9) vs. Atlanta Dream (3-11)
  • Los Angeles Sparks (10-3) vs. Minnesota Lynx (9-4)
  • Connecticut Sun (6-8) vs. Phoenix Mercury (7-7)

In the hour before the first game was set to tip off, WNBA players convened on a court to discuss their options and whether to play. Pre-game press conferences with coaches were also delayed.

The Washington Mystics arrived at the game site wearing t-shirts the spelled out Blake’s name. The back of the shirts had seven bullet holes each to signify how many times police shot Blake, who is now paralyzed.

The Minnesota Lynx was the first team to issue an official statement on the postponement of the games:

“The Minnesota Lynx fully support our players’ decision to postpone tonight’s games from being played. We as an organization condemn yet another senseless act committed by police, this time in Kenosha, WI against Jacob Blake, as well as every act of police brutality against black and brown communities. We stand with our players who are using their platforms to stand against racial injustices in our country and create meaningful change.”

The Los Angeles Sparks followed:

The Los Angeles Sparks organization fully supports the players decision to boycott tonight’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. We stand with all WNBA and NBA teams in demanding justice for victims of police violence. The Sparks will continue to advocate for change and take action to combat systemic racism and sexism in our society.

The full text of Williams’ speech:

After speaking with representatives from teams playing tonight, as well as our WNBPA leadership, the consensus is to not play in tonight’s slate of games, and to kneel, lock arms and raise fists during the national anthem. We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA. And we’ll continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action.

What we have seen over the last few months and most recently with the brutal police shooting of Jacob Blake is overwhelming. And while we hurt for Jacob in his community, we also have an opportunity to keep the focus on the issues and demand change. These moments are why it’s important for our fans to stay focused, hear our voices, know our hearts and connect the dots from what we say to what we do. We encourage everyone to go and register to vote. Now. Today.

If you truly believe that Black Lives Matter, then vote. Go and complete the 2020 Census now. Don’t wait. If we wait, we don’t make change. It matters. Your voice matters. Your vote matters. Do all you can to demand that your leaders stop with the empty words and do something. This is the reason for the 2020 season. It is in our DNA. We have been saying her name. We are lifting the names of black and brown women whose murders have been forgotten.

We will continue to use our platform to speak of these injustices that are still happening and demand action for change. Black Lives Matter. Say her name. Say his name. Tonight we stand. And while we have heavy hearts, we stand with strong and determined voices and ask all our fans to vote, to engage, and to make that difference.


 

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