Storm and Liberty players walk off court before national anthem in WNBA season opener

National

CBS News–The WNBA season kicked off Saturday with a statement against racial injustice. Before the national anthem played just before tip-off, Seattle Storm and New York Liberty players dropped their basketballs, walked off the court, and headed back to their respective locker rooms as part of the social justice initiative the WNBA announced it will take earlier this month. 

The league announced on July 6 that the season will be dedicated to raising awareness about social justice issues. The effort includes warm up uniforms with the messages “Say her name” and “Black Lives Matter,” and the formation of a player-led Social Justice Council. Since the announcement, dozens of WNBA players and teams have shared messages on social media against prominent social justice issues, including the death of Breonna Taylor

Before the first game of the season began, New York Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart also addressed their fellow teams, saying that this season is dedicated to Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home. Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around her,” Clarendon said. “We’re also dedicating this season to Say Her Name campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women, Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them.”

“We will say her name: Sandra BlandAtatiana Jefferson, Dominique Remy Fells, and Breonna Taylor,
 Clarendon said. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”

Stewart then led the teams in a moment of silence for 26 seconds to represent the age Taylor was when she died. 

Taylor was asleep in her bed on the night of March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, when police used a no-knock warrant to enter her and her boyfriend’s home and opened fire. The police have said that they were searching for narcotics as part of a drug investigation, but according to a lawsuit from her family, no drugs were ever found. 

Police shot Taylor multiple times, saying they did so because her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had shot at them first. In the lawsuit, Taylor’s family says the officers never announced or identified themselves prior to entering the home, and Walker had shot at them because he thought it was somebody breaking in. 

Out of the three officers involved in Taylor’s death, none of have been charged, and only one has been fired from the Louisville police department. 

Prior to Saturday’s game, Liberty posted a video message demanding justice for Taylor as well, with players collectively saying “Say her name.” 

“A Black woman, daughter, sister, beloved,” they said before recounting the details of what happened in Taylor’s case. “It’s our turn to fight for justice.” 

Many other sports leagues and players have followed similar actions in recent months. 

During the MLB season opener on Thursday night, players on the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees knelt during a moment of silence, and held a long piece of black fabric in support of the ongoing racial injustice protests. On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays tweeted that it was opening day for the MLB, “which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.” Washington’s NFL team has also announced that it will remove “Redskins” from their name and will go by “Washington football team” until they decided upon a new name. 

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that players left the court before the national anthem was played, not during.

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