As WNBA season nears its end, players say activism will go on

Photos courtesy of Twitter Amanda Zahul B (fifth from left) with her New York Liberty teammates

It has been over 189 days since Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment by police. The officers responsible for her death have not been arrested. The Taylor family last week received a $12 million settlement from the City of Louisville, Kentucky.

 “I still think justice has to be served,” said Minnesota Lynx forward Erica McCall to the MSR during a Zoom call last week. “I still think they need to arrest the cops that killed her.”

Minnesota Coach Cheryl Reeve added, “I don’t believe that settlements are the path to [police] reform. I think it’s contrary to the idea of accountability.

“I do believe that Breonna Taylor’s family deserves every penny, but that’s not justice,” she pointed out. “Ultimately these settlements penalize the communities, because it is taxpayers that will be responsible for that settlement. The community doesn’t deserve to be held accountable.

“Taxpayers pay it out, and police continue to police the way they please,” noted Reeve.

For keeping alive the drive for justice for Taylor and others who died at the hands of police, the WNBA players were honored last week in a historic move. All players are the recipients of the 2020 WNBA Community Assist Award for their collective passion and collaborative dedication to social justice, promoting racial equality and systemic change. 

State Farm and the WNBA will donate $50,000 to the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), which created the #SayHerName campaign in 2014. The players promoted the campaign all season along with the founding of the WNBA/WNPBA Social Justice Council. 

The players at every opportunity during the season talked on current issues: “We are paying attention to what is going on in the media,” admitted Lynx center Sylvia Fowles.

Every team was involved to some extent on social and racial justice issues. The Lynx and the Minnesota Timberwolves last month launched their “Voices” social justice series that focuses on the teams’ personnel discussing social issues, among other topics. The two teams also have met with local officials, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, to discuss current issues.

Other teams such as the New York Liberty players designed special T-shirts for sale with proceeds going to the Breonna Taylor Foundation. The team earlier donated $25,000 to the AAPF.

A signature orange hoodie that players wore during warm-ups sold out on the league’s website. The W players also worked on other issues, such as voter registration, meeting virtually with Stacey Abrams on this issue earlier this month.

Liberty and former Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B created a virtual book club for 13- and 14-year-old girls from the New York area that meets bi-weekly to explore the work of Black authors. She and two other teammates in 2015 helped stage a post-game media blackout and wore Black Lives Matter warm-up shirts. 

“I’m not great with politics, but great with education,” exclaimed Zahui B during a Zoom media call that included the MSR.

The 2020 playoffs now are in the best-of-five semifinals round. Minnesota will play Seattle Sunday, Sept. 27 in Game 3 (ESPN2, 2 pm local time). The game was supposed to be Thursday but was postponed due to a Seattle player’s inconclusive COVID-19 test.

Although most of the players have now left the “Wubble” for their respective off-seasons, Fowles told the MSR that their social justice efforts keeps going. “You will see a lot of individuals and teams continue to talk about these things as we go our separate ways,” said Fowles.

“We are at a point where we know our voices have been heard.”

Editor’s update: This story was written prior to the announcement that no officers were charged in the killing of Breonna Taylor.