June 7, 2024 

After leading Sky past Mystics, Chennedy Carter reflects on hotel harassment

‘I’m tuning out the noise’

WASHINGTON — Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter was startled when a man met her and her Chicago Sky teammates with a camera as they arrived at their team hotel Wednesday evening.

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Unprepared for the encounter, Carter was fortunate that the Sky security team swiftly intervened, preventing a potentially more serious situation. The police were not called.

Despite the incident, Carter delivered a stellar performance, scoring a season-high 25 points in a 79-71 come-from-behind victory over the Mystics before 10,000 fans at Capital One Arena on Thursday night. In a postgame interview with The Next, Carter shared her experience standing outside the Sky locker room in her white, pinstriped uniform.

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“I was focused on my safety and getting off the bus,” Carter said. “You know, I’m in my world and getting ready for the game the night before. So, I was focused on getting food and things like that. So, to have someone stick a camera in my face after my security guard tells you, ‘Hey, stop.’ It’s a little disrespectful.

“My teammates didn’t like it. Our coaching staff and the organization didn’t like it. We just want to feel safe as players. I want to feel safe. It’s just basketball. So, I shouldn’t feel like people are following me or trying to approach me when I return to my hotel room.”

Sky players Angel Reese, Isabelle Harrison and Brianna Turner posted on X, formerly Twitter, to express their displeasure with what had happened.

While no one was injured, the incident highlighted the need for more robust security for the players, especially since the influence of the WNBA has increased. According to multiple reports, Carter was the target of the man, who yelled racial and sexist slurs. A video was reportedly posted but later deleted.

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“I’m thankful that the WNBA has allowed us to have security, and they do a great job of ensuring the players are safe,” Carter said.

If the encounter shook Carter, she didn’t show it as she strode onto the court for her pregame stretching and shooting. Her first words to a group of onlookers standing near midcourt were, “I am blessed and highly favored” as she bent over to touch her toes. Carter maintained a consistent smile and even shared jokes with the Mystics’ game-day staff, who rebounded the ball for her, displaying her unwavering resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

Carter, who admitted she gets her competitive fire from her three brothers, was part of a prolonged news cycle and on the receiving end of plenty of vitriol after she committed a flagrant foul on Indiana Fever rookie guard Caitlin Clark last week. National pundits debated and analyzed the shove incessantly. While the Sky apologized Monday, some people were still angered by Carter’s actions.

There’s more to the 25-year-old Carter, who is still growing.

“God has helped me,” Carter said. “He’s been right here with me every step of the way. I’m just really getting closer to him. I’m praying, and I’m staying just to myself, and I’m tuning out the noise. The best thing I can do right now is focus on what I can control, and that’s my game, my effort and my energy. I’m genuine, love basketball and am passionate about it. I’ve been working hard since before I got to Chicago, this offseason, just getting ready for this upcoming WNBA season. Tonight is just a testament of the hard work I put in.”

As the Sky ran onto the floor for the game, they were anchored by their security detail. One person led the team out. Another was the last one running out behind the final Chicago player. The Sky’s security detail sat on the bench throughout the game. Reese was the last Sky player off the floor, and one of the Sky’s security guards was walking with her.

During the postgame press conference, Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon answered a question intended for Reese and Harrison. There were no team meetings following the incident.

“We handled it well, and security was there to take care of our young ladies the way they have been taking care of us,” Weatherspoon said. “We didn’t focus on that; we focused on what to do when we came here. We look forward to improving everything as we progress.”

While Sky players did their best to put the incident behind them and focus on the game against the Mystics, the mental scars may remain. The situation brought back memories for Turner when she was a member of the Phoenix Mercury.

“I had this similar occurrence happen last year when I was playing with Britney Griner in Phoenix,” Turner recalled during pregame media availability. “A guy ran up to us with a camera and started shouting ridiculous things. People say this happens in other sports, but we shouldn’t normalize this.”

A victory like this could galvanize the Sky, who overcame a first-half double-digit deficit to raise their record to 4-5. Reese, playing her first professional basketball game in the DMV, scored 16 points, pulled 11 rebounds and had five steals. Harrison added 14 points off the bench, and Marina Mabrey scored 10.

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“A win like this just says we have a lot of fight in us,” Carter said. “We never give up. We’re a team that will keep competing and punching no matter what the score looks like at the end of the day. We have to keep playing hard with energy and effort while working through our mistakes.”

While it has been a tumultuous few days for the Sky, starting with the fallout from Carter’s hard foul, continuing with Reese’s rescinded technical foul and ending with the harassment at the hotel, Weatherspoon is proud of how the Sky persevered through the challenges to claim a big road victory.

She also wants people to understand there’s more to her team off the floor. She believes understanding and learning the various stories of the Sky players can help the public positively perceive and learn more about them.

“They are incredible young women,” Weatherspoon said of her team. “Before we talk about basketball, they are great people — loving, kind, caring and wanting to give their time. They understand the magnitude of this job. They understand they have to be about community and people, and they must love and care for them because little eyes are upon them. They are sharing their experiences, so they talk about their stories. They wanted to share their stories so everybody knows you can do it too.”

Written by Rob Knox

Rob Knox is an award-winning professional and a member of the Lincoln (Pa.) Athletics Hall of Fame. In addition to having work published in SLAM magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and Diverse Issues In Higher Education, Knox enjoyed a distinguished career as an athletics communicator for Lincoln, Kutztown, Coppin State, Towson, and UNC Greensboro. He also worked at ESPN and for the Delaware County Daily Times. Recently, Knox was honored by CSC with the Mary Jo Haverbeck Trailblazer Award and the NCAA with its Champion of Diversity award. Named a HBCU Legend by SI.com, Knox is a graduate of Lincoln University and a past president of the College Sports Communicators, formerly CoSIDA.

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