June 27, 2020 

Kristi Toliver; Chiney Ogwumike opt-out of 2020 season

Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love. Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media…

Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.


Photo Credit: Chris Poss

When the WNBA began moving forward with plans to begin the 2020 season, the league indicated that players would have the option to sit out the season if they chose to do so. This week was the major deadline in which players had to decide if they were playing or not.

A few players have already made the choice not to suit up this season, and more announcements came on Friday evening that a pair of Los Angeles Sparks will not be partaking in the 2020 season. Both Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver announced their intentions to sit out this WNBA season.

In a statement released by the Sparks organization, Toliver cited both health concerns as well as the ongoing effort towards social reform as the key reasons for why she has decided not to play this season.

“I am not comfortable with the risk to my physical health – short-term and long-term – given the many unknowns of COVID-19 and the risk of injury,” Toliver said. “And in light of the many social justice issues that are finally and rightfully front and center, I will find new ways to make a positive impact in my community.”

Toliver had rejoined the Sparks this offseason after leaving the team following their 2016 WNBA championship run. She had spent the past three seasons with the Washington Mystics where she helped them win the 2019 title. She was expected to provide the Sparks with additional help in the backcourt to ease some of the pressure off of Chelsea Gray.

In another statement released by the Sparks organization, Ogwumike also cited similar reasons for deciding to sit out this year.

“This year is unprecedented in many ways, therefore my team and I have come to the decision to be proactively cautious and put my body first,” Ogwumike said. “I will continue to use all my platforms to elevate and empower my teammates and fellow players in the WNBA as we continue to fight for our communities.”

Ogwumike spent last season with the Sparks after spending the first five years of her career with the Connecticut Sun. She provided the team with additional frontcourt depth and after spending much of her career as a starter, she reinvented herself as a key player off the Sparks bench.

She has long been at the forefront of professional athletes leading the charge for social justice and has used her social media platforms to amplify her voice.

Sparks head coach Derek Fisher also released statements about both players opting out.

“We will miss having a player of Kristi’s caliber on the court this season…I know she’ll make an impact and be a leader in the community and we’ll be excited to have her back in Los Angeles next season,” Fisher said. “Chiney is an integral part of our team and we will certainly miss her presence this season. We respect her decision and look forward to watching her continue to effect change in the community.”

In related news, according to Brady Klopfer of SB Nation, the rest of the Sparks roster, including Candace Parker, have all opted in and will suit up for the team in Florida.

The announcements give the Sparks two open roster spots to fill.    

Written by David Yapkowitz

Leave a Comment