May 25, 2021
WNBA remembers George Floyd
League, teams and players honor Floyd's life and call for action
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The WNBA has paved the way for athlete activism. In 2016—before NFL player Colin Kaepernick made headlines by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality—Minnesota Lynx players Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus wore black warm-up shirts that said on the front, “Change starts with us — Justice & Accountability.” On the back of the shirts were the names Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, who were both killed by police officers. Maya Moore would later announce in February 2019 that she was taking a leave from basketball to focus full-time on criminal justice reform efforts.
Many players in the league predicated their decision to play the 2020 WNBA season from the “bubble” in Bradenton, Florida, on the ability to use the league’s platform to advance social justice. While each individual decision to play the condensed season inside a bubble was personal, the collective was united in honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and #SayHerName campaign.
“Being in the bubble together as a league, we had a chance to do so much more and amplify in a very significant way the need for criminal justice reform, the need for reform in our policing. We’ve had the chance to really educate ourselves on the ways you can really enact change,” said Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve during her team’s media availability today.
It has been one year since George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s murder led to worldwide protests against police brutality and brought America’s brutal legacy of racism and into sharp focus. Today, the WNBA and WNBA Player’s Association (WNBPA) both released statements to honor George Floyd’s life. Teams and players from around the league also shared their messages and called for continued reform to the criminal justice system, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The WNBPA has encouraged supporters to call on their senators to pass the bill.
Written by Tee Baker
Tee is a women's basketball reporter and historian. As an author at The Next, Tee covers the BIG EAST conference and contributes articles and media featuring the WBL, the first professional women's basketball league in the United States.
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