WNBA dedicates 2020 season to social justice, honoring Black Lives Matter movement

The league and players have teamed up to honor Black victims of police brutality and racial violence, and continue the fight for social justice while playing at IMG Academy in Florida.

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Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry first proposed the idea of honoring Black female victims on WNBA players’ jerseys this season. (Image courtesy of McCoughtry’s Twitter account)

The WNBA and its players' union have decided to dedicate the 2020 season to furthering the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SayHerName campaign with a series of collaborative efforts, the league announced Monday.

The WNBA will allow players to wear jerseys with the names of Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen, and other Black women that have died at the hands of police or in acts of alleged racial violence. Players will also wear warm-up shirts with the phrase, “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back.

This will not be the first time that players around the league have worn similar shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2016, following the separate deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, members of the Minnesota Lynx — including Maya Moore — wore black t-shirts with the phrase, “Change Starts With Us: Justice & Accountability” printed on them along with Castile and Sterling’s names to a press conference. Later that season, players from the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever wore black t-shirts during warm-ups.

After Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry and the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart first floated the ideas of honoring Black victims on jerseys and courts, the league has announced going forward with that plan. Along with special uniforms and warm-up shirts, “Black Lives Matter” will be displayed on the courts during games.

The league also announced the creation of a new platform, The Justice Movement, through which “the WNBA and players will continue to work together to drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change.”

As Erica Ayala first reported, the WNBA is also forming a Social Justice Council which will be led by Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, A'ja Wilson and Satou Sabally. Advisers to the council include Alicia Garza (Founder, Black Future Labs, political activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter), Carolyn DeWitt (CEO, Rock the Vote) and Beverly Bond (Founder/CEO, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and Celebrity DJ).

In its first season, the Council “will cultivate designated spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, and other activations to address this country’s long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities.”

“As many WNBA players–past and present–have said and, more importantly, consistently demonstrated, the reason why you see us engaging and leading the charge when it comes to social advocacy is because it is in our DNA,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike in the release.