By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer/BNC Contributor
NEW YORK (AP) — WNBA players will wear uniforms for the opening weekend of the season featuring the names of women who have died because of alleged police brutality or racial violence — including Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and Sandra Bland — when the league begins play later this month.
Players will also wear warmup shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back throughout the season, the league and players’ union announced Monday. Also, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” will be featured prominently on the courts where the teams practice and play.
“We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond. Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”
The jersey idea was first publicly put forth by Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry.
The league and players association also announced the creation of a new platform — The Justice Movement — and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. The purpose of the council is to push for change on issues including race, voting rights, LGBTQ advocacy and gun control.
WNBA players Layshia Clarendon, Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Sydney Colson, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Satou Sabally will led the council.
“As many WNBA players — past and present — have said and, more importantly, consistently demonstrated, the reason why you see us engaging and leading the charge when it comes to social advocacy is because it is in our DNA,” WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike said. “With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world. And may we all recognize that the league’s stated commitment to us — in this season and beyond — offers a pivotal moment in sports history.”
A few players, including Renee Montgomery and Natasha Cloud, have already opted out of the upcoming season to spend their time working to advance social justice.
Teams started arriving Monday at IMG Academy in Florida to prepare for a season that’s been shortened and limited to a single location because of the coronavirus pandemic. Games are expected to begin the weekend of July 24.