WNBA players, just like their NBA counterparts roughly 100 miles away at Walt Disney World, staged a walkout on Wednesday in response to the Jacob Blake shooting.
Four of the six teams scheduled to play at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, linked arms and kneeled together on the court in a powerful show of force on ESPN ahead of the announcement.
“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,” Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams said in a joint statement on ESPN. “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will 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 and 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.”
Blake was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday as he tried to get into his car. The incident was caught on video and instantly drew widespread condemnation. An attorney for the Blake family said that his three children were in the car at the time of the shooting.
All three NBA playoff games set for Wednesday night were postponed after the Bucks first staged a walkout. The Milwaukee Brewers walked out of their game against the Cincinnati Reds in solidarity with the Bucks, too.
The Dream were set to take on the Washington Mystics in the first game of the night, and were going to be followed by the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx.
The Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury were going to close out the slate of games. They were not on the court when players kneeled, as they hadn’t arrived to the arena yet.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert stood by the players’ decision not to play on Wednesday.
“There’s no real choice here. We have to support our players,” Engelbert said on ESPN. “We know this is a very emotional time, a very divisive time in our country, and what we’re trying to do is unify, come together with them, help facilitate some conversations with social justice activists to help them strategize about how they can have an impact, because we all want an impact … I think there’s no time like the present to support them.”
‘Go and register to vote now, today’
Williams then asked fans to register to vote.
“We encourage everyone to go and register to vote now, today,” Williams said in the statement. “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.”
Mystics wear ‘bullet hole’ shirts
The Mystics made a powerful statement themselves when they first showed up to the arena.
The team wore special white T-shirts that spelled out Blake’s name on the front. On the back, each player had seven holes in the shirt — symbolizing the multiple times that Blake was shot by police.
“Tonight we stand,” Williams said. “And while we have heavy hearts, we stand with strong and determined voices and ask all our fans to vote and engage and to make that difference.”
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