To protest another shooting of a Black man on Sunday night by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, WNBA players joined their brothers in other professional sports on Wednesday night by not playing the three scheduled games at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Connecticut Sun were scheduled to play the Phoenix Mercury at 10 p.m.
The NBA cancelled four playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks declined to play Game 5 of their Eastern Conference playoff series in Orlando against the Orlando Magic, which scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Three other NBA games were cancelled.
Three major league baseball games were postponed. The Milwaukee Brewers voted not to play their game against the visiting Cincinnati Reds, the Seattle Mariners voted not to play against San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers game against the San Francisco Giants was postponed. Major League Soccer called off five games.
Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. An officer shot Blake seven times in his back as Blake tried to get into a vehicle. Blake’s three children were in the vehicle at the time. Two people were killed Tuesday night in Kenosha during a second night of protests over the shooting. A 17-year-old was charged in that incident.
Connecticut head coach Curt Miller and the Sun players were not immediately available to comment Wednesday evening.
Standing together, the entire Bucks team issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement,” Milwaukee’s George Hill said in reading a statement.
Full statement from the Milwaukee Bucks: pic.twitter.com/jjGEyVcCmB
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks, wrote on Twitter, “Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and (organization) shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen.”
Players from the Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream met on the court after arriving to the IMG Academy and decided not to play. The Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx, who were scheduled to play at 8 p.m., were part of the discussion and also decided not to play.
“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,” Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams said in a statement on behalf of WNBA players. “These moments are why it’s important for our fans to stay focus, hear our voices, know our hearts and connect the dots from what we say to what we do.
“We encourage everyone to go and register to vote, now, today. If you truly believe that Black lives matter, then vote. Go and complete the 2020 Census now, don’t wait. If we wait, we don’t make change. It matters. Your voice matters. Your vote matters.
“Do all you can to make sure your leaders stop with the empty words and do something – this is the reason for the 2020 season,” Williams said.
“Black lives matter. Say her name. Say his name. Tonight, we stand and while we have heavy hearts, we stand with strong and determined voices and ask all our fans to vote, to engage and to make that difference.”
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 27, 2020
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeves spoke about the pride she feels in her team for taking this stand. “It takes a lot of courage to take steps like this. Something has to change,” she said.
Reeves talked about voting but also spoke about the responsibility for voters to learn about the candidates and their views. She also called out for more diversity among leaders in our nation – at the national, state and local levels.
“There needs to be more diversity in what we are doing,” she said. “We need to think of that when we are voting. In order to have diversity of thought, you need diversity in positions of leadership.”
“Black people fear about living in this country every day,” Reeves said. “We’ve had it with that. Using our voices as athletes, we’re going to get hit in the pocketbook (for not playing) but you can’t have change with people like us sitting there and accepting it. It takes courage and sacrifice.
“I am proud of this generation of women in the WNBA who don’t fear people that what to take (basketball) away (from them). They fear for their lives – not playing the game of basketball. They fear for their family members lives so where does basketball fit into that? That is where this generation is,” Reeves said.
Players from around the league spoke all day, Reeves said. “They are focused on what we can do to help our communities, help their families so we can live so we can live safely and live the same as white people. That is what their focus is on,” she said.
Washington’s Ariel Atkins told ESPN’s Holly Rowe, “We need to understand that when most of us go home, we still our black. Our families matter. We got this little guy (the young child of a Mystics player) right here that we see every day. His life matters. He needs to know that he can do what he wants to do whenever he leaves his house when he grows up. But he matters.”
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 27, 2020
Phoenix’s Bria Harley, the former UConn guard, said on Instagram, “We are people. We are concerned citizens. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. We are free Americans who didn’t forfeit our right to free speech and protest when we accepted these jobs. Tonight, we won’t play. Find a way to understand why and find a way to be alongside us seeking a solution. Because ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Because BLACK LIVES MATTER.”