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Days after Maya Moore’s efforts helped release a wrongly convicted Black man from prison, the WNBA has dedicated its 2020 season to social justice.
A centerpiece of the campaign will be uniforms dedicated to victims of police brutality and racial violence. The WNBA announced the initiative on Monday alongside the WNBPA.
“Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society,” league commissioner Cathy Engelbert wrote in a statement.
During the season’s planned opening weekend in late July, players will wear uniforms dedicated to women and girls the league describes as “forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence.”
Specifically, players will wear jerseys bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in Louisville when police barged into her home on no-knock warrant on March 13.
NBA’s hesitance to use victim names
For now, the NBA doesn’t plan to use names of victims of police brutality on jerseys for its scheduled bubble season that will also include a social justice focus. Sources told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes last week that the league was considering allowing players to choose names of victims to wear on their jerseys, but concern rose about the potential omission of some victim names. Some are worried about causing pain to family members if their loved ones are omitted.
Discussions on the decision were ongoing as of the June 30 report, and the decision was not official.
The WNBA’s announcement mentioned the names of Taylor, Sandra Bland and Vanessa Guillen, women who all died in violent circumstances. Taylor will be the focus on the league’s uniform campaign.
WNBA players will also wear warmup shirts throughout the season reading “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back. “Black Lives Matter” will also be emblazoned on WNBA courts.
Angel McCoughtry’s push to honor Taylor
“I see some negative comments that people are like, ‘What’s this going to do, putting the name on the jersey?’” McCoughtry told Yahoo Sports’ Cassandra Negley last week. “Well, it’s planting the seed. We plant those seeds because when you plant the seeds, they grow. ...
“I don’t want to be the laughingstock of the world. I don’t want to live in the most racist country in the world. I don’t want people to divide.”
McCoughtry, a Louisville alumna with ties to Taylor’s family, called specifically to honor Taylor on jerseys. She said on Friday that she “heard through the grapevine that they love” the idea.
Officer Brett Hankison was fired for the shooting death of Taylor. Chief Robert Schroeder said that Hankinson “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment. He does not face criminal charges.
The WNBA and its players intend to use their platform throughout the season to raise awareness for victims like Taylor.
“With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world,” wrote Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike.
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