The WNBA dedicated its 2020 season to Breonna Taylor and social justice. They’re off to a strong start.
In the leagues opening weekend, players walked off the court before the national anthem, observed a 26-second moment of silence and wore the name Breonna Taylor on the back of their jerseys to honor the 26-year-old Black woman killed by police in Louisville. During in-game interviews, players like 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart deflected questions about play on the court to discuss the need to fight for racial equality.
But one team, the Chicago Sky wanted to do more.
Sky Forward Gabby Williams explained the teams thought process heading into the season
“Before we even came to the bubble, we were having Zoom calls debating if we should even come, because this is the thing that’s most important to us. I think we realized that coming to the bubble meant we could do something collectively and how important it is, in a time like this, to turn on the TV and see Black women. That was the decision. This season is not just about basketball. More importantly, it’s about the fight for racial equality.”
The Sky unveiled the Sky Takes Action, an initiative where the players will donate money — based on performance — to Athletes for Justice, a coalition of Chicago athletes founded by former Chicago Bear Sam Acho. For each point a player scores, she will donate $10. For each win, the team will donate $100, while each loss will come with a $50 donation.
The donations will be distributed to By the Hand Club for Kids, BYP100, The Movement for Black Lives, Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago and Future Ties.
Following their season opener Sunday, a come-from-behind 88-86 win over Las Vegas, the Sky players will donate $980. Williams, the team’s second-leading scorer in the game, will donate $140 of those dollars.
Sky players are not new to giving back to their community.
Sky guard and 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields, who lives in Chicago year-round, linked up with other Chicago sports stars including Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky and Cubs OF Jason Heyward, to help out a community in Chicago.
They met with youths from the south and west sides to hear what Chicago needs most. When the children talked about food, the athletes worked together to buy a liquor store on Chicago’s west side and turn it into a grocery store.
The Sky players hope their donations will be matched by their fans and sponsors, making it a social trend. More importantly, they want their fans to open their minds to listen to their messages of social justice and racial equality.
“We’re challenging our fans to match, collectively, our donations to these organizations,” Williams said. “Hopefully, as they follow us through the season, they’ll become educated on these organizations on a lot of these topics, and it will start to normalize conversations and individual action. Now people will learn how they can take action.
“I think we’re in a place now where people want to help, but a lot of us don’t know how. Whatever donations we make, we hope the fans will match it. If we raise $1,400 a game, we hope everyone chips in 5, 10 dollars, and they match us. We’ll challenge whoever we play to match us, as well.”
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, with the help of Washington’s Natasha Cloud and Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, announced he was committing $1.5 million to an initiative that would supplement the income of WNBA players who opted out of this season for reasons related to health and social justice, among others.
The WNBA has been at the forefront of athletes using their platforms for social change. In 2016, the Minnesota Lynx wore shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” and had the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two Black men killed by police, on the back. Maya Moore, the league’s MVP in 2014 and a four-time WNBA champion, missed the 2019 and 2020 seasons to advocate for criminal justice reform. Earlier this month, the man Moore had dedicated her time to help free from a Missouri prison had his conviction overturned.
Williams believes dedicating the season to Breonna Taylor is the least the league could do.
“It goes beyond just remembering (Taylor). That’s the absolute least we can do,” Williams said. “It’s playing in her memory. She played basketball, too, in middle school and high school. This is the absolute minimum we could do to honor her, as well as educate people on what ‘Say Her Name’ means. This is an opportunity to teach our fans, and teach anyone who turns on the TV to see us, what ‘Say Her Name’ actually means and what things are happening to women like Breonna Taylor, and build the awareness around that because we don’t want another incident like this.”
The latest initiative means the Sky’s efforts don’t stop on the basketball court either. With 21 more regular-season games left to play, including Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Sky have plenty of opportunities to raise money and continue the fight.
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