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WNBA stars support HS players suspended for BLM shirts in show of ever-present activism

Cassandra Negley
·5 min read
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WNBA players, including two-time champion Breanna Stewart, are standing in solidarity with two high school players who were punished for wearing Black Lives Matter shirts in warm-ups, Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV reported.

Two female basketball players at American Heritage School in Delray Boca, Florida, wore T-shirts similar to those worn by WNBA players and their NBA counterparts during bubble seasons this summer and autumn. Their team’s next game was reportedly suspended for the act, drawing the attention of the professionals who watched peers initially fined for social justice warm-up shirts in 2016.

Florida girls suspended for Black Lives Matter shirts

Jordana Codio and Khadee Hession wore Black Lives Matter shirts during warm-ups after a student in the school “allegedly posted a racial slur in a virtual class a few weeks ago” and received no disciplinary action for it, Girls Talk Sports TV reported.

The school suspended one game for the duo’s action, per the report.

A student posted the school handbook showing the hypocrisy of the “expectations” for students with the leadership’s action in this case.

WNBA players speak out in solidarity

Codio, a 6-foot-1 guard who is ranked top-50 in the class of 2022 and has verbally committed to Wisconsin, and Hession have participated in camps run by Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler, a Florida native.

Wheeler took to Instagram writing in support of the players and asking the school “this how you treat black athletes? So take away the one thing they love because of what they believe in? Wow says a lot about your school!”

The 2019 All-Star MVP continued: “As role models to these young athletes we’re going to stand up with our young future stars.”

The Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud, a longtime proponent of gun control measures who opted out of the 2020 season for social justice work, also spoke out.

“The administration that tried to silence these athletes by canceling games because of a BLM T-shirt should be dismissed,” she write on Instagram, per Girl Sports Talk. “Institutional racism is alive and thriving still in our education system.”

And two-time WNBA champion and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart wrote, simply, “it’s not a political statement. It’s real life.”

The WNBPA Twitter account retweeted the post by Williams with “#PlayersSupportingPlayers” and in the days since the news first started making ways, other players have spoken up in support from all over the world. Immediately after their seasons ended, they joined overseas teams as is usual for WNBA players.

School’s back story with BLM, racism

Coach Brett Studley wrote in support of the players on Sunday with a statement on Twitter.

“I stand with Jordana Codio and Khadee Hession along with the rest of my girls. As coaches we ask so much of our young athletes. We ask them to shed blood, sweat and tears for us. The least we could do is have their backs. It’s our DUTY as coaches to empower our young women and let their voice be heard, especially after a racial attack. We will stand tall as a team and continue to speak out. Fear of punishment will not silence us.”

The school has not made any statement about the incident. It’s not the first time it’s been in the news for racial incidents. In December 2018, retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and his family backed an effort to have their son’s friend reinstated at the school after an issue of potential discrimination. There was public backlash in June 2020 when the school put out a tepid statement skirting around Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s death. The institution appeared to delete the critical comments on its Facebook post.

Parents wrote on Instagram posts about the basketball players that they chose to pull their children from the school due to issues they said the school either dismissed or ignored. One graduate wrote they weren’t surprised by the news and “I have not meet [sic] a single decent person on the administration who thinks of everyone as equal,” per Williams.

Why are WNBA players involved?

Erica Wheeler in the All-star jersey.
Erica Wheeler stood with two Florida high school players who wore Black Lives Matter shirts and were later suspended. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This issue is right in the WNBA’s wheelhouse and it’s what the league’s players have for years now been using their platform to fight for. They didn’t just put Breonna Taylor’s name on their jerseys and leave it alone; they kept fighting for her family and used each week of the season to focus on a different Black woman as part of the “Say Her Name” campaign.

The WNNBA is used to discrimination of its own. Four-time champion and Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird put it best in August on the “Old Man and the Three” podcast in August.

“As female athletes all we are are judged based on everything except the game we’re playing. We’re being judged because we’re women. We’re being judged because we’re gay. We’re being judged because we’re black ...

“It really kind of hit me one day. Who is anybody right now to tell us as female athletes to just stick to sports? We've actually tried to do that. Nobody would let us. And so here we are, standing up for ourselves, which is something that’s very natural for us at this point.”

These young players are girls who look up to the WNBA and who may play in the league one day. But more than that, they’re the girls they spent this summer fighting for and WNBA players don’t give up or forget a cause. They are still going hard in the political paint to get out the vote for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia runoff elections for which early voting started Monday.

Their lives are spent fighting for respect in virtually every metaphorical arena and they won’t let the ones behind them fight the same battles.

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