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WNBA Players Walk Off Court During Anthem; Kyrie Irving Commits $1.5 Million to Support Those Who Opt-Out This Season

New York Liberty players Amanda Zahui B and Layshia Clarendon.
New York Liberty players Amanda Zahui B and Layshia Clarendon.
Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack (AP)

WNBA athletes continue to make it clear that they are all about justice for Breonna Taylor. Over the weekend, members of the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty teams walked off the court as the national anthem was being played ahead of their game in Florida.

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The players were wearing shirts bearing the words ‘Say Her Name’ in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville in March of this year.

“We’re dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,” said New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon. “We will say her name.”

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The walk-off is an example of how far professional athletes have come in explicitly advocating for racial justice since Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling in 2016, a silent protest that sparked controversy throughout the sports world.

Before walking off the court, the players also observed 26 seconds of silence to mark each year of Taylor’s life:

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The action was part of a season-long initiative between the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) to raise awareness about social justice, reports Buzzfeed.

Their ongoing badassery in the name of Black women and other victims of police violence is now being supported in a big way by NBA player Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets player has committed $1.5 million in funds from his own foundation to supplement the income of any WNBA athlete who chooses not to play this season due to health reasons or issues of social justice.

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From ESPN:

Irving said that with the help of WNBA players Natasha Cloud—who chose to sit out—and Jewell Loyd, he connected with several WNBA players who discussed with him the challenges they faced in deciding whether to play. The season began Saturday and will be played entirely at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

He decided to help with the financial burden in a league where the top annual salary is a little more than $200,000.

“Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,’’ Irving said in a statement.

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It’s beautiful to see players using their platforms to speak out in these powerful ways—and to see them embrace their ability to affect change when they band together.

Writer, speaker, finesser, and a fly dresser. Jamaican-American currently chilling in Chicago.

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DISCUSSION

sleepattack
Sleep Attack

As proud as I am of all these women for this action, I’d love it if one of the outcomes of this critical moment in our history were that the national anthem was no longer played before games of any kind, at any level. It’s so stupid to have the anthem played before these events. You don’t have to sit or stand or whatever through the national anthem at a movie, or at a concert. But it’s been shoved down our throats at games, at all levels. To hell with it, get rid of it, get rid of all the “patriotic” bullshit, the flyovers and the staged troop reunions and the cop slurping and all of it.

(I’d also love it if Breanna Taylor’s murderers were brought to justice, everyone involved in creating and serving that bullshit no-knock warrant and stonewalling/covering up since her murder! And I’d also love it if the systemic white supremacy in our society were dismantled! But I think all these steps in the right direction, even the symbolic ones, count.)