From spreading awareness about racial injustice to advocating for gender equality, WNBA players have continually used their platforms to drive social change and the league’s latest effort is centered on the empowerment of Black women and girls. The WNBA recently unveiled an initiative designed to address racial health disparities that stem from systemic inequities.
Black women are disproportionately affected by a myriad of health issues including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. NBC News reported the Black maternal health crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Cognizant of the alarming, ever-growing disparities, the athletes decided to join forces to work towards providing support for vulnerable communities. The WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council—a collective of athletes and activists that was cultivated following the unrest in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd—will lead an initiative designed to address the prevalence of racism and discrimination within healthcare, shed light on the socio-economic factors that significantly impact COVID-19 care for Black women and girls and promote the importance of mental health for communities of color. As part of the effort, the WNBPA has pledged to donate $25,000 to the Black Women’s Health Imperative; a grassroots organization dedicated to holistically improving the health and wellness of Black women and girls. The league will also create vaccination sites in underserved communities.
The initiative was unveiled during the 2021 WNBA Draft on Thursday through a public service announcement that included athletes A’ja Wilson, Layshia Clarendon, Elizabeth Williams and Nneka Ogwumike. “I don’t think there’s a way for me individually to stay out of politics or to stay out of social justice because my existence is really political and the country we live in has made it political,” Clarendon told CNBC.
The league’s leadership team says the initiative will be instrumental in advancing their social justice efforts. “Led by the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council, the league and union will continue to advance the efforts of the Justice Movement, the platform initiated in 2020 through which the players lead important work in the community to combat racial and gender inequality, promote advocacy for LBGTQ+ rights, and champion reform in systems where injustice persists,” read a statement from the WNBA. “These collaborative efforts represent the WNBA/WNBPA’s continued commitment to advancing social justice and being a driving force of necessary change.”
The 25th WNBA season is slated to start on May 14.