We Need to Talk: “People want to fight for what’s right and this is equality”
After a long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, it appears the 2020 WNBA season will take place later this summer. The league recently unveiled their plan to play a 22-game regular season, followed by a normal playoff format, at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. But while there will be basketball, it goes without saying that this won’t be a normal season.
Not only has the pandemic shortened the season and necessitated all 12 teams coming together in a bubble environment, but major names won’t be taking part. Between health concerns and a desire to continue fighting for social justice during a time of unprecedented protests, a number of players have announced they won’t be traveling to Florida.
Here’s a look at some of the players who will be sitting out:
Natasha Cloud — G, Washington Mystics
Cloud helped the Mystics win their first title in franchise history last season, but she won’t be a part of the team’s quest for a repeat. On Monday, June 22, Cloud announced on social media that she’ll be sitting out the 2020 season in order to continue fighting for social justice.
“There’s a lot of factors that led to this decision,” Cloud said on Instagram. “But the biggest being that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”
Tiffany Hayes — G, Atlanta Dream
Hayes is the second member of the Dream to decide not to play this summer, joining her backcourt partner Renee Montgomery. That duo’s absence will leave plenty of opportunities for the Dream’s new acquisitions, Courtney Williams and Chennedy Carter. Hayes didn’t specifically cite a reason, but noted that with “everything that is going on right now” she decided it was best not to play.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 season,” Hayes wrote on Instagram. “This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything that is going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment. Many will not agree with my decision but I know in my heart it’s the right one.”
Jonquel Jones — F/C, Connecticut Sun
Jones finished in third place in the MVP voting last season, as she helped lead the Sun to the Finals for the first time since 2005. It’s unlikely we’ll see the Sun back in the Finals again this season, as Jones decided to opt out of going to Florida because of concerns about the coronavirus.
“After careful thought and consideration, I’ve decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth,” Jones said on Instagram. “This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in.”
Renee Montgomery — G, Atlanta Dream
The Dream struggled through one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but there is plenty of excitement about their team moving forward with the arrival of Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams in the offseason. That duo will have to step up in a major way, as veteran guard Renee Montgomery opted to focus on social justice instead of basketball.
“After much thought, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season,” Montgomery said. “There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. 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!”
Chiney Ogwumike — F/C, Los Angeles Sparks
The Ogwumike sisters were reunited last season, when the Sparks traded for Chiney from the Sun. However, we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see the duo on the court together again, as Chiney has announced her intentions to sit out the upcoming season. She’s missed two entire seasons with injuries so far in her career, and did not feel comfortable playing given the condensed scheduled and training camp.
“If you know me, you know that I have overcome some of the biggest challenges an athlete can face on the court,” Ogwumike said. “My previous injuries have given me strength and built character, but unfortunately they require me to be careful with my preparation leading up to a season. This year is unprecedented in many ways, therefore my team and I have come to the decision to be proactively cautious and put my body first.”
LaToya Sanders — F/C, Washington Mystics
Though often overlooked on a star-studded team, Sanders was a crucial part of the Mystics’ title run last season. But like Cloud, she won’t be around as they try to repeat in 2020. Sanders, who is anemic, decided not to play due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what’s best for my health and family,” Sanders said in a statement. “I wish my teammates and the entire Mystics family the best this season and I will continue to watch and support them.”
Kristi Toliver — G, Los Angeles Sparks
After helping the Mystics win the title last season, Toliver against going for a repeat, chose instead to return to Los Angeles, signing a three-year deal with the Sparks in free agency. Her second stint with the team won’t come until 2021, however, as she’ll be sitting out due to concerns about the coronavirus.
“Though I want very much to compete with my team, to be a leader and show up for them, I am not comfortable with the risk to my physical health – short-term and long-term – given the many unknowns of COVID-19 and the risk of injury,” Toliver said in a statement on the team’s website. “For me, the right decision under the circumstances is to opt-out for the year.”