WNBA players joined NBA players and other athletes on Wednesday in protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, with the women’s basketball league’s players announcing all three of the night’s games were canceled.
The Washington Mystics made a powerful statement ahead of their scheduled game against the Atlanta Dream. Team members wore white shirts with a letter each to spell out Blake’s name. On the backs, the shirts had seven bullet holes, representing each time the 29-year-old Black man was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday night.
Players from the Mystics, Dream, Minnesota Lynx, Connecticut Sun, Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks all took a knee and linked arms on the court during the national anthem in Bradenton, Florida, where the teams are staying in a “bubble” to prevent coronavirus infections. After the anthem played, they walked off.
The move came amid a wave of unrest and protests in Kenosha and other cities over the shooting, which doctors have said left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
“We absolutely support them,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said of the players’ decision.
Atlanta Dream player Elizabeth Williams announced on behalf of all WNBA players that they had decided not to go ahead with the night’s games hours after the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks set off a wave of demonstrations across sports by staging a walkout of their playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The Bucks’ decision prompted the NBA to postpone all of Wednesday’s games. The Milwaukee Brewers baseball team also announced it would postpone Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action,” said Williams. “What we have seen over the last few months, and most recently with the brutal police shooting of Jacob Blake, is overwhelming. And while we hurt for Jacob and his community, we also have an opportunity to keep the focus on the issues and demand change.
Mystics guard Ariel Atkins said in a statement with her team on the court that “this isn’t just about basketball.”
“When most of us go home, we still are Black,” she said. “We’re not just basketball players. If you think we are, then don’t watch us, you’re watching the wrong sport, because we’re so much more than that.”
“If we do this unified as a league, it looks different. Because this league is close to if not over 80% Black women. We have cousins, we have brothers, we have sisters, mothers, everyone. We matter ... I’m tired of telling people that.”
Attorneys for Blake’s family have said he was trying to deescalate a domestic situation when he walked away from police and back to his car, where his three children were inside waiting for him.