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On one of the most emotional days since the return of team sports from the coronavirus outbreak, several leagues postponed games in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
The WNBA was at the forefront of that conversation and had player discussions on whether or not to play leading up to the final hour before the scheduled tip of the first game. After the teams agreed to play together, the Washington Mystics elected to boycott their game, and thus the league postponed all contests set to take place Wednesday evening.
While WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is supportive of her players, she wants them to feel they can both have a platform to advance the conversation of social issues while also playing basketball. The two do not have to be separate.
"We know it's a very emotional time for our players," Engelbert told ESPN's Holly Rowe. "I felt I needed to point out how strong they've been through all this and to give them some courage and confidence that basketball's been part of their platform and they can do both."
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Engelbert, who is in her first season on the job for the WNBA, is in the bubble with the players. During the pregame discussions, she spoke to the teams to help them see all sides of the situation and provide her experience to the situation. Players said that the "business side" of their decision was also discussed.
Part of the players' concerns is the league and basketball providing a distraction for them and the public at large. It allows the conversation to shift away from discussions on racial injustice and could prevent players from having an impact in their communities. This was a huge topic of discussion in negotiating for a 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The league agreed to help amplify its player's voices while in the bubble, in addition to dedicating their season to another police violence victim, Breonna Taylor. Each team has further demonstrated and continued to push the narrative forward to demand change.
"We absolutely support them. We are running a very player-first agenda," Engelbert said on the players' decision to not play.
She and the league will go back to the hotel in the bubble and talk to the players and coaches about their concerns and how and if the WNBA can continue forward. Engelbert is hopeful that they can pick back up with tomorrow's slate of games and will be able to reschedule the three games that were postponed.
"We're calling this, for now, a postponement and hopefully we'll pick up these three games and talk with the six teams, who aren't the six who played tonight, and see how they're feeling. And how, again, I think they can band together in solidarity and really have a strong platform but also play basketball," Engelbert said.
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