Women of the WNBA Raise Their Voices Against Trump/Pence and Murder by Police

July 31, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Looking for professional athletes to stand up for social justice and against the fascist moves of the Trump/Pence regime? Look to the women of the WNBA—Women’s National Basketball Association. Here’s some of what they’ve done and said recently.

Support for Planned Parenthood

This past week, the WNBA team Seattle Storm held a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, whose funding has been under constant attack from the Trump/Pence regime. The fundraiser, $5 from each ticket sold for a game between the Storm and the Chicago Sky, raised $41,790. The three women who own the Storm, Lisa Brummel, Ginny Gilder, and Dawn Trudeau, floated the idea of this fundraiser to the team, who immediately endorsed it. Four players—Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Sami Whitcomb, and Noelle Quinn—did a public service announcement on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Gilder, a U.S. Olympic rower who participated in political protests while at Yale in the 1970s, said, “I definitely got involved in the ownership group because I saw that this was the intersection of three things that I love: sports, business and social justice....”

After the Trump election, the Storm owners wanted to openly advocate for causes that they thought would be undermined by Trump. Gilder said, “For me, this thing with Planned Parenthood really came out of the sense of profound despondence in early November.” Trudeau said, “You’re living in this world. And you’re saying: ‘This isn’t right. What can I do?’”

Chicago Sky player Imani Boyette, who skipped the pre-game warmup to attend a rally for Planned Parenthood, said, “Today was just amazing to see all the support from women, men, from babies all the way up to people my grandparents’ age.”

Protesting the Muslim Ban

Breanna Stewart, the 2016 WNBA Rookie of the Year and a player on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team in the 2016 Olympics, took part in the Los Angeles airport protests in January against Trump’s ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees. In an interview with the Guardian, she said, “I think it’s important to speak up because as I continue to gain success and followers in my sport, I also have a platform which I can speak on and I’m speaking for others who might not have the opportunity.”

In another interview Stewart said, “I think we will look back on this moment and remember where we were and I wanted to be on the right side on history.... We can’t sit out on issues this important. You have to take a side, so I went.... I know that this is a life and death issue for refugees.”

Stewart said, “I think everyone deserves the right to be equal. There are more things now where people are being told you can’t do this because you’re LGBT or because of your race or religion. It’s like, what are we doing? We’re in 2017!”

Against Police Brutality and Murder

Stewart also participated in the WNBA protests against the police murders of Black people. Six teams wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts, and several players knelt during the national anthem in the playoffs. It started when the Minnesota Lynx wore shirts saying “Black Lives Matter,” “Change Starts With Us,” and “Justice and Accountability.” The shirts had the images of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were murdered by cops. They were followed by the New York Liberty, and then the Phoenix Mercury, who wore plain black shirts as a way to protest.

When the teams were fined for not wearing their standard uniforms, Tina Charles of the Liberty wore her warm-ups inside out as a form of protest when she accepted the Player of the Month award. Then players from several teams started tweeting out pictures with them wearing black shirts, and the Washington Mystics wore the Black Lives Matter shirts in the locker room after a game. Several teams refused to talk to the press, and Natasha Cloud of the Mystics said that the team’s media blackout would last “until we get support” from the WNBA, and further, “If they’re going to take away our right and our voice to advocate for something so important to 70 percent of the league which is African American, we’ll find other ways to do it and other ways to do it is to wear our shirts to and from the game and use the media to [express ourselves].”

“We want to be able to use our platforms; we want to be able to use our voices,” said Liberty guard Tanisha Wright to reporters. “We don’t want to let anybody silence us.”

The WNBA was forced to back down, and league president Lisa Borders tweeted, “Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.” An article at Slate.com stated, “Rarely have so many players and teams in a league stood together across racial lines on a matter of social import.”

Support for the LGBTQ Community

Think Progress reported that Layshia Clarendon of the Atlanta Dream was upset when, this past year, the WNBA changed the Pride Day event into “Diversity Night” because a few of the players did not want to support LGBTQ rights by wearing a Pride T-shirt. Clarendon said, “You show up and you either play with or against these players every single night, and you just start looking around — like a lot of us started doing after the Trump election — who didn’t want to wear the shirts? There’s that looking over your shoulder, like, ‘wow, I show up every day and there is someone out there that doesn’t believe that my life matters, or that I should be able to get married.’”

Clarendon, who is a non-cisgender1, said “We live in a world that is divided male, female, the binaries really don’t give people any space to be in between, and people are threatened when we don’t fit into the boxes.... A big part of my fight is breaking down those binaries and showing people what is beautiful, what is female, what is woman can look different in so many ways. That is very threatening to a lot of people.”

Think Progress reported that “Earlier this month, Clarendon used the WNBA Player’s Association Twitter account to send a supportive message to Mili Hernandez, the eight-year-old soccer player banned from a tournament in part because her short haircut made someone think she looked like a boy.”

1. A non-cisgender person does not identify their gender as either male or female. Their gender is fluid and can be anywhere in between what is considered cisgender, the gender assigned to them at birth, either male or female.


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