The WNBA season began on Saturday, and when the national anthem played, the players were not on the court.
All players from both the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty left the court before the anthem was played. The move follows similar protests in sports sparked by Colin Kaepernick.
On why they walked off as opposed to kneeling, Layshia Clarendon of New York Liberty said “kneeling doesn’t even feel like enough to protest.” She added, “I don’t want to hear the anthem, I don’t want to stand out there. I don’t want to be anywhere near it, because it’s ridiculous that justice and freedom are just not offered to everybody equally.”
This protest specifically highlighted Breanna Taylor, and the Say Her Name Campaign.
The players returned to the court after the anthem. Every players uniform had Breonna Taylors name under their number. Police shot Taylor with no provocation after charging her home without warning.
Clarendon then told the crowd that this WNBA season would be dedicated to Taylor and the Say Her Name campaign, which highlights Black women who are killed by police. She noted that their deaths often do not garner the attention they deserve. She named Sandra Bland,Atatiana Jefferson,Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells,in addition to Taylor.
Bland was 28 when she was found hanging in her cell following an arrest in dubious charges at a traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide, but the circumstances and investigation are highly suspicious. Jefferson was 28 when police shot her in her home. Police came to her house after a neighbor called the non-emergency line as they were concerned as to why Jefferson’s front door was open late at night. Fells was the 13th transgender woman murdered in the U.S this year.
Then Breanna Stewart announced that there would be a 26 second silence in honor of each year of Taylor’s life.
The move comes after discussions between the WNBA, Stacey Abrams, and Breonna Taylor’s mother. Nneka Ogwumike, of Los Angeles Sparks, told reporters that she hoped the action taken would live up to what they discussed.