The WNBA's 'wubble' stood for activism, for Black women and for so much more than basketball
It's officially been almost a week, but it's never too late to give the WNBA their flowers for an incredible 2020 season that off-field leaders and batsmen will remember much more than the games on the field - although they were amazing too.
Before entering the "Wubbles," which is restricted to courts and homes at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, to minimize the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 (which they have done quite successfully, by the way), decided the players who dedicate the shortened season to racial justice, and in particular Breonna Taylor, the young black woman who was killed in her own home in March by Louisville police officers.
Say her name, they demanded. Not just in the first few days or after the first two games, but during the entire three months that the regular season and the playoffs took place: It was on jerseys and T-shirts, it was on the signage, it was her face on video screens. At the trophy ceremony for the Seattle Storm, which won its fourth WNBA title with a win over the Las Vegas Aces, Commissioner Cathy Englebert made sure to mention Taylor immediately.
In no way did the efforts end there.
Players supported the voter registration effort, joined LeBron James' "More Than a Vote" initiative, and encouraged their community members to register, create a plan and vote.
Along with NBA players, they refused to play in late August, enraged by the shooting of another black man, this time Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Washington Mystics entered the field wearing white T-shirts with seven bullet holes on the back depicting the shots that Blake had absorbed and that paralyzed him.
Perhaps most effectively when they were frustrated by the big words and actions of Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a US Senator who had the boldness to tell women in a mostly black league that "black life matters" - literally: your life matters - was political and you should (stop us if you've heard this before) stick to basketball. And she did this to gain favor with her right-wing Georgia base and President Trump, who is not a fan of black women and athletes who have the boldness to speak up when what they say speaks against him.
When Loeffler wasn't struck out of the league, the women used their collective vote to do the next best thing: they virtually met with one of the candidates trying to win their Senate seat, Rev. Raphael Warnock, to get a feel for his to get a stance on key issues and then had T-shirts printed with the words "Vote Warnock".
In doing so, they gave Warnock a momentum and a surge in fundraising for the campaign: In the three days after WNBA players publicly endorsed Warnock, his campaign raised more than $ 236,000 online from 3,500 new grassroots donors. His Twitter audience grew by almost 4,000 followers.
Warnock has since risen to the top of the polls in Georgia, where early voting began on Monday.
These promotions are not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor do they include the actions of players who suspend the season to fully devote their time to causes, like Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery.
And all of this happened months after they stood up for themselves and those who will follow them in the league, demanding and getting a vastly improved collective agreement.
Seattle Storm Guard Sue Bird poses for a picture after the team won the WNBA basketball championship in Bradenton, Fla. On Tuesday, October 6, 2020. (AP Photo / Chris O'Meara)
Sue Bird the goat
While we're distributing flowers, we're getting more for Sue Bird. It is no longer time she was recognized as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
(Notice that we didn't say "women's basketball".)
Shortly before her 40th birthday and in her 19th season, Bird set a WNBA final record in Game 1 with 16 assists. She has a total of 33 assists in the Storm's three-game round.
She should have been recognized as a GOAT long before that, but now there should be no more doubt, not with four Olympic gold medals, four WNBA championships, a dozen European championships with Russian teams and two NCAA titles with UConn.
And it was her idea to protest against Loeffler by supporting Warnock.
There has been a debate in Seattle in recent days about who is the greatest athlete in city history as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson claims his first NFL MVP award with his game so far. There were of course votes for Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki.
Bird is better than anyone else.
Wilson wore a yellow Bird jersey to pay homage to the Seahawks' game against the Vikings on Sunday and, after leading the game-winning touchdown ride, said he felt "like Sue Bird in the clutch".
If you missed it because you refuse to see it, you're in a shrinking group: TV ratings have increased significantly this season, proving that people are watching when you air it and they are not is insincere to stand up for what really matters. Missiven suggested violating the league.
The WNBA is over 20 years old, but it feels like it has arrived this season.
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