Prior to the game, the teams asked for a 26-second moment of recognition to honor Breonna Taylor’s age when she died
In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made history when he first took to his knees during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Four years later, the act of peaceful protest has never been more meaningful due to the senseless murders of Black men and women — including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — by police. However, on Saturday, the kick-ass women of two Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) teams, the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty, made an even more impactful Black Lives Matter statement during their season opening game in Bradenton, Florida: They walked off the court before the national anthem played.
Members of the teams, as well as coaches, donned their respective jerseys with Taylor’s name across the back honoring the 26-year-old killed by Louisville police earlier this year. ESPN reports that other WNBA teams throughout the season will wear Taylor’s name as well.
“We’re dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,” said New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon, the first vice president of the WNBPA and one of the leaders of the initiative, per the sports publication. “We will say her name.”
Prior to the game, Clarendon and Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, who are both on the WNBA’s new Social Justice Council, asked for a 26-second moment of recognition to honor the EMT’s age when she died.
“We thought that was very fitting to do a moment of recognition — not a moment of silence. Because we’re not being silent by any means,” said Clarendon. She also explained that many members of the league felt as if kneeling had become “performative” in some instances, so they wanted to make a stronger statement.
“Kneeling doesn’t even feel like enough to protest,” Clarendon explained. “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.”
Steward said that what the players do off the court is “just as important — if not more important — than what [they] do on the court.”
“We were debuting the season,” Stewart said. “And we really wanted to take advantage of that and continue to highlight things that we need to be better in this world. And that starts with getting justice for Breanna Taylor and her family.”
Later on in the day, the players of the Los Angeles Sparks and the Phoenix Mercury also left the court just prior to the playing of the national anthem.
Editor’s note: The story originally stated that the two teams, Seattle Storm and New York Liberty, walked off the court as the national anthem played. We’ve corrected the story to state that they walked off before the national anthem played.
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