WNBA is Back with a Message

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AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Hunter Firment, Assistant Sports Editor

Prior to the tip-off of the WNBA’s opening game between the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm, the players held a 26-second moment of silence in remembrance of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year-old woman shot and killed by Louisville police who entered her home on a no-knock warrant. The WNBA has dedicated their season to Taylor and the #SayHerName movement, the social justice campaign that brings awareness to police brutality against Black women.

Before the game, Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon and Storm forward Breanna Stewart spoke about the WNBA’s affiliation with the Say Her Name campaign and their dedication to fighting for justice for Black women. The WNBA campaign is “committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women… so often forgotten in this fight for justice,” Clarendon said. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.” 

Clarendon’s words spoke volumes to the manner in which Black women are often forgotten in the fight for racial equity, especially in unjust policing. The two WNBA players also mentioned how this upcoming season would be dedicated to Breonna Taylor. 

Many WNBA players had Breonna Taylor’s name printed on the back of their jerseys, including Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner. 

Every step I take, every time there is a camera on my back someone who is living under a rock who doesn’t see or doesn’t know they’re going to see it, they’re going to Google it, they’re going to look into it. Hopefully, that makes more people aware of how unjust it is,” Griner said in an interview with The Undefeated. Griner said she hopes having Taylor’s name across her back will shine light on the oppression and injustice Black women face. 

Many NBA players followed the WNBA’s lead, sharing messages about Breonna Taylor in recent post-game press conferences. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said in an interview that he “want[s] to continue to shed light on justice for Breonna Taylor and for her family and everything that’s going on with that situation.” James then said the next step would be to have “the cops arrested who committed that crime.” Other players like Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers also voiced their support to the Say Her Name campaign, and the fight for justice for Breonna Taylor.

NBA players also showed their support for their WNBA counterparts by wearing orange WNBA hoodies that symbolize the importance of women in basketball. The orange hoodie was actually the top-selling product on the NBA Store’s website on July 25. They were worn by the likes of Jaylen Brown, LeBron James, and other NBA stars for the support and celebration of the WNBA season and women’s basketball. The WNBA players have been leaders in the social justice campaign in basketball, and they feel that they should also be seen as leaders on the court.