All eyes are on the WNBA.
With viewership up 63 percent from last season—thanks, in part, to the pandemic and a long-overdue push from ESPN—the WNBA is not only showcasing its premier talent, but its players are using their increased visibility to raise awareness around social justice.
Earlier this month, we reported that WNBA players will wear the names of women who were victims of police violence, such as Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. And in a recent interview with The Undefeated, superstar Brittney Griner shared what it means to wear Breonna’s name on her jersey this season.
“A Black woman was fatally shot by a metro police department officer [...] and nothing is being done,” she said. “It was a trend on social media after—I hate to say that, but I feel like so many people got into a trend of just posting just to post but not really doing anything about it.
“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. It’s been countless days since anything has been done. We’re still fighting for justice for her. As a Black woman, I feel like we get the double effect. I say that as a woman who has been discriminated against already in society, and being a Black woman at that, for being double-discriminated against. I’m tired of it. I’m really tired of it.”
Griner also took the time to express her feelings about the case itself.
“For me, anytime that a law officer was not doing their job—they’re supposed to protect and serve first. I feel like it’s too many times that cops are feeling like they’re a judge, jury and executioner,” she said. “There were so many people that could have stopped this. So many high-ranking officials that can do something about it till this day right now. Nothing is being done except for the people who are still saying her name every single day, still bringing it up every single day. We’re not going to stop.”
There’s a common misconception that professional athletes and celebrities aren’t subjected to discrimination or other challenges that everyday people face. But Griner detailed her own run-in with Phoenix, Ariz., police when she first joined the Phoenix Mercury and how she was afraid for her life.
“I had an incident when I came to Phoenix,” she said. “I got pulled over by a cop. I was in the wrong, I was speeding—I wasn’t paying attention. When I pulled over, I pulled over in the HOV lane, which you’re not supposed to and I know that—I panicked. I saw him behind me and I just pulled over quickly. When he came to my window I got judged on my size and on my voice. He thought I was a guy and was very rude. It could have escalated. [...] I could have reached for my phone and then shot easily.”
Or, in Breonna’s case, been shot in her sleep with no justice—or no aid rendered—which is exactly why the six-time WNBA All-Star will say Breonna’s name and ensure that her memory remains alive.
“When you do something that is selfless and you’re doing something for an actual cause, that’s bigger than anything you can do on a basketball court or any accolade you can get in your career,” Griner said.
As always, the WNBA continues to be at the forefront of social issues and it’s dope to see one of the biggest names in the sport lead the charge.
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