The afternoon began with NBA players from the Milwaukee Bucks electing to sit out of a nationally-televised playoff game in protest after Jacob Blake was shot by police not too far from where the Bucks play their home games.
Four more NBA teams — the Thunder, the Rockets, the Blazers, and the Lakers — followed suit, as did the Milwaukee Brewers in the MLB.
Once the NBA decided it would not play after another Black man was the victim of police brutality, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the WNBA would stand in arms with its brother league. Before the start of the Mystics/Dream game at 4 p.m., Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams announced that all of the players in the three WNBA games Wednesday had elected to sit out. The Sparks were scheduled to play the Lynx at 5 p.m.
An hour earlier, when Sparks coach Derek Fisher was supposed to be conducting his pregame media address, the team sent an email saying, “Head Coach Derek Fisher’s pre-game media availability will be delayed. An update will be sent shortly.”
Fisher’s was one of three pregame Zooms that was delayed.
Players in the WNBA have consistently been on the front lines fighting for social justice, specifically these two teams. Four members of the Minnesota Lynx, including current Spark Seimone Augustus, made a Black Lives Matter protest in 2016 in response to the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Four off-duty police officers walked off the job at the arena that night because of that protest.
In 2017, the Sparks stayed in the locker room during the national anthem at a road game in Minnesota. Nneka Ogwumike, who played for L.A. at the time, and is now the president of the WNBA Players Association, made sure that social justice was part of the platform for the league having a season this year. The WNBA has championed the “Say Her Name” movement, has Breonna Taylor’s name on every jersey, and has spotlighted a different woman each week who has been connected to police brutality.
Today, the Washington Mystics came out in white T-shirts with Blake’s name spelled out, and each shirt had seven red dots on the back to symbolize the seven times Blake was shot.
The players had considered an on-court protest when they would put the ball down at the seven-minute mark of each quarter in reference to Blake’s shooting. However, they ultimately decided that they could not play.