Amid the social unrest and pandemic, several athletes have opted out of competing in an effort to work towards spreading awareness about systemic injustice or due to the coronavirus. According to ESPN, NBA star Kyrie Irving wants to ensure that WNBA players who have made the decision to sit out are financially supported and has donated $1.5 million to supplement their incomes.
The contribution is being made through Irving’s KAI Empowerment Initiative; an effort created to provide financial support for professional women’s basketball players. Through the initiative, players will also be able to take financial literacy-focused courses. “Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,” Irving said in a statement.
Several WNBA players have made the decision to sit out this season. In June, Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery revealed that she would not compete to focus on social justice reform. Washington Mystics player Natasha Cloud decided to do the same. “There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight, but I do feel that now is the time and moments equal momentum. Let’s keep it going!”
WNBA players who have decided to participate in the 2020 season are finding ways to use their platforms as avenues to bring attention to social injustice. Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry launched the #SayTheirNames Jersey Campaign to use WNBA jerseys to honor those who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officials. “The goal is also to create a relationship with the families of whose name the athlete has chosen,” she said. “This is a way to use our platform to be a helping hand during these trying times. Silence is an ally for EVIL and when sports resume WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.”