NEW YORK — Layshia Clarendon emerged as a leader in more than just the Liberty locker room this season.

Somewhere between signing with the Liberty and deciding to play in the WNBA bubble, Clarendon — as did the rest of the W — had a higher calling. That was to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor. Fight for justice for every single Black and Brown person who lost their lives because of police brutality and white supremacists. All while being in the national spotlight as the WNBA was one of the major sports leagues to return during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is for this fight that the Daily News has selected Clarendon to represent the face of athlete activism in 2020.

"In their first season with the Liberty, Layshia Clarendon provided invaluable leadership for the team and the league, as an activist, organizer and advocate of social justice and equality for all people. The New York Liberty organization is proud to have Layshia as a veteran leader both on and off the court," the team said in a statement to the Daily News.

Clarendon, 29, signed with the Liberty in February. On top of deciding to play during the pandemic, the veteran guard also chose to serve on the league's Executive Committee and on the WNBA/WNBPA's first Social Justice Council.

The W was at the forefront of a pivotal point in history, despite its very existence already being a movement of its own. Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland and countless others, deserved better. Black and Brown people around the country, and the world, deserve better. So, every game was about more than basketball.

"The W is the movement," Clarendon told the New York Times. "It's where this country is going. It's where progressive and forward-thinking folks are looking to."

That started on Day 1.

Clarendon, and the rest of the new-look Liberty team along with the Seattle Storm set the tone from the get go. Standing on a court that read "Black Lives Matter" — and in front of a scorer's table which read "Breonna Taylor" — Clarendon announced the players were dedicating the season to Taylor, "an outstanding EMT (emergency medical technician) who was murdered ... in her home."

"Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around her," Clarendon said. "We are also dedicating this season to the Say Her Name campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women. Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice who do not have people marching in the streets for them. We will say her name. ... we will be a voice for the voiceless."

Then all players and coaches took a 26-second moment of silence, the age Taylor was when she was killed.

And in lieu of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, both teams left the floor altogether and went back to their locker rooms during The Star-Spangled Banner. Many around the league realized at a certain point that kneeling became more performative than actual protest.

When that first-day protest lost traction and viewers just wanted to watch basketball, Clarendon and the league helped kick it up a notch. After the news of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, players voted to sit out games to put the spotlight back on the repeated injustices.

After vacating the courts, Clarendon and the Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike led a players and coaches candlelight vigil for Blake, trying to help turn the day of mourning into one of hope. Clarendon also read Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise" because "at this moment it feels like we're on the teetering of hope and despair," Clarendon said. "Any given moment, there's so much change and then it's the constant reminder that nothing's happened. So I just want to read this and remind us of how much power we have."

Clarendon, the rest of the Liberty and the league held true to that vow since that day. Further proof there was a greater mission at hand: Clarendon — through all the losing of the season — along with the rest of the Liberty and others around the "wubble" took time out of their training and practice days to talk to mothers who lost their sons or daughters to police brutality. Clarendon and the league continued to ear shirts that read "Say Her Name" or "Trans Lives Matter."

Clarendon was one of the W's most vocal players on demanding racial justice. There was rarely a media conference pre- or post-game where Clarendon wasn't asked to speak about the tragic next loss of Black or Brown life or what players planned to do next.

Months after leaving the wubble, and with spouse Jessica expecting the couple's first child, Clarendon was still speaking out, still doing interviews, still carrying that heavy emotional load for those who couldn't.

History will remember what the WNBA did in 2020. History will also remember the league's most outspoken leaders. That will always include Layshia Clarendon.

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.