Acting again in solidarity and in step with the NBA, WNBA players decided on Thursday not to play for a second consecutive day.
It sounds as if Friday could bring a return to the court for the six teams scheduled to play, including the Lynx.
But Thursday was a day of reflection, said Nneka Ogwumike, a star player for the Los Angeles Sparks and president of the WNBA’s players association. Ogwumike and members of her executive committee met for a roundtable discussion on ESPN Thursday — the day after the WNBA protested the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., by not playing its three scheduled games, one of which was Minnesota vs. Los Angeles.
It was a powerful talk.
ESPN reporter Holly Rowe talked with Ogwumike, Natalie Achonwa, Sue Bird, Layshia Clarendon and Elizabeth Williams. During the discussion, the scene moved to one of the gymnasiums at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where every member of every WNBA team stood together, arms locked.
Postponing three more games for a second consecutive day was necessary, Ogwumike said, after the weighty events of the week.
“We also decided today to take games off,” she said. And then she read a prepared statement which said, in part:
“The players of the WNBA used today to reflect. Following yesterday’s decision to stand in solidarity with NBA players and Black and brown communities in Wisconsin, and around the country, we will continue demonstrating our solidarity by not playing today.
“It is important to note this is not a strike, this is not a boycott. This is affirmatively a day of reflection, a day of informed action and mobilization.”
As for a return to action?
Ogwumike said the players decided Wednesday night they wanted to play. “There are games scheduled [Friday], and that’s what we’re ready to do,” she said. “But that doesn’t come without, of course, demands of players to continue to amplify our voices in more ways than when we came here.”
If that happens, it would mean the Lynx would play Atlanta. The Lynx struggled in the second half of their 78-75 loss to the Dream on Sunday, a loss that ended a three-game win streak.
But a return won’t be easy, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
“You know what they don’t care about? Just playing basketball,” Reeve said in a Zoom conference call with reporters Wednesday. “That’s first and foremost. I can tell you that those who might suggest playing basketball is something that we should focus on, or the fear of losing TV money and our owners losing money and therefore our league being in jeopardy. That’s not going to work. They’re focused on what we can do to help our communities, to help our families, so that we can live safely and live the same as white people. That’s what their focus is on. If we play basketball … you can bet that our mind isn’t 100 percent on basketball.”
The abbreviated 22-game season being played in Florida was always about both basketball and activism. But, one player after another Thursday talked about going further, recommitting to the cause, using their platform.
Ogwumike called on prosecutors in Kentucky and Wisconsin to arrest officers who were involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor and Blake. She recited a litany of women of color whose deaths demand justice.
“It’s been tough,” Clarendon said. “It’s been really hard. We’re athletes, we’re not machines. We needed a pause, a break, a moment of reflection.”