“No justice, no peace … no racist police.” “Breonna Taylor … 94 days.”
These were the chants flooding the streets of downtown Washington D.C. on Friday afternoon. And just who was leading those chants? That would be both local basketball teams; the Washington Wizards and reigning WNBA Champion Washington Mystics.
The two teams have been in communication for weeks via Zoom calls, discussing the current state of the nation. Among the things on the discussion board was joining forces to lead a march down the streets of D.C and stand together.
The two leading voices in organizing this were Bradley Beal and Natasha Cloud. While it was Cloud’s idea to organize a march, it was Beal who got the tires turning weeks ago.
Shortly after the murder of George Floyd, Beal sent out a powerful tweet that read “We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country.”
The two players have been using their platforms for weeks to call out injustices, so it is no surprise they came together in the streets of D.C. But they were not alone. They were joined by their teammates, all dawning Black Lives Matter T-shirts, and chanting just as loud.
Almost all of the players have either experienced what it is like to be racially profiled, or known someone who was killed by the police. Bradley Beal spoke out and told his experiences dealing with police officers in D.C.
“I got pulled over on 495 and the officer…he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f— up your Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?” Beal continues, “I didn’t do anything. But because I was an athlete, a black athlete driving a nice vehicle, that’s what he came up with. How am I supposed to respond to that? I would just be waking up on Monday morning with an ESPN headline: ‘Bradley Beal arrested because of interaction with police.’ But it happens. It doesn’t just happen to me. It’s everywhere. We just have to stop being ignorant to that fact that it exists.”
Unfortunately Beal was not the only one with a story to tell. His teammate John Wall told his story to Caron Butler on Twitter.
Wall recalled a moment when Washington, D.C., police pulled him over following a Wizards practice. Citing an issue with his turn signal, the police asked him to remove his window tint right on the spot. He was just blocks from his home, but officers removed him from his vehicle.
“I’m scared to get pulled over,” Wall told Butler. “I’m still a black athlete in America in this world and I know how it’s going. If I have to get pulled over, I’m going to a gas station or I’m going somewhere where there’s a lot of people and a lot of lights are at. And I’m scared to get pulled over on the highway. You don’t want it to get dark at night and pulled over on the highway because you never know what can happen.”
Wall continued, saying that each time he sees a unarmed black man get killed by police in America, the trauma digs deeper.
“I’m doing the best I can. As a father with two boys, these killings hit a little different because sometimes I wonder if I can make it back home to be around my kids if something ever happened,” Wall told Butler. “Or if they’re growing up, what type of environment or troubles they might have to deal with, so that’s the most important thing for me. It’s just not something that I want right now. You get more angry and it hurts a lot more right now because you see what these other families are going through.”
Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud, who’s idea it was to organize the march, spoke on how important it is to put the moment ahead of basketball.
“The last two weeks, I haven’t thought about basketball one time. I have to, because I’m a player rep, and I have to be on the union calls for the WNBA. But this is bigger than basketball. We’re not only athletes. When we take that uniform off, we are Black men and women. We don’t get to take our skin color off and walk around the streets and have that privilege. We don’t. We don’t have a choice. So when we’re talking about the game of basketball, today, right now, I could care less. Our calling right now is to use our God-given platforms, to use our voices to collectively come together for something greater than all of ourselves combined.”- Natasha Cloud.
When you listen to Cloud speak, you can’t help but think that she will follow the lead of fellow WNBA star Maya Moore, and take a hiatus from the league to fight racial injustices. While she has made no decision on if she will take a hiatus this WNBA, one thing is certain, Cloud has a life waiting for her outside of the sport. She has a feel for leading.
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