The WNBA could be what helps flip power in the U.S. Senate. That’s the magnitude of what the league’s players did in 2020 and their portfolio of unified activism work will have impacts beyond the calendar year. The year was truly a crowning moment for a league that’s never been able to “stick to sports.”
The players went beyond words and initiated meaningful actions before any of their peers. Breanna Stewart spoke Black Lives Matter on the courts into existence and it was Angel McCoughtry who first floated the idea of putting Breonna Taylor’s name on jerseys. They wore her name every game and each week honored a different Black woman affected by police or racial violence. During in-game media interviews and on social outlets they raised awareness of these individuals and continued their outspokenness in the league’s offseason.
In August, players wore “Vote Warnock” shirts to support Rev. Raphael Warnock as a calculated showing against a team owner who stood against their values. He was then polling at 9 percent; now he’s in a runoff with Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler. They spent the back half of their season getting out the vote, a success proved by more people than ever voting in the presidential election. They continue that work today with the runoffs through Jan. 5.
The NBA followed the WNBA’s lead on initiatives, just as the sports world has followed in the WNBA’s wide activism footsteps for decades. The Minnesota Lynx were the first to wear Black Lives Matter shirts in 2016, setting the foundation for sports-wide demonstrations in 2020. Without the WNBA players constantly bushwacking forward, it’s easy to see how the activism leagues took this year could never have happened. The year 2020 was a crowning achievement for players left outside the limelight and one on which they won’t rest their laurels.
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