The WNBA will #SayHerName. This is why.

The 2020 WNBA season starts today. The priority is to get justice for Breonna Taylor.

Hello, friends, and welcome to Power Plays, a newsletter for people who are sick of hearing bullshit excuses, and ready to see equality in sports, written by me, Lindsay Gibbs.

I am so glad to finally be able to say this: HAPPY WNBA OPENING DAY!!!!!

The WNBA season launches today at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The players are in what is known as the “wubble” — the WNBA’s version of a bubble, which you will learn more about in Power Plays tomorrow — and starting today, the 12 WNBA teams will play a 22-game regular season, followed by a full playoffs.

In celebration, I am offering a WNBA Opening Weekend Discount for Power Plays — this weekend only, if you purchase an annual subscription to Power Plays, you get 22% off.

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I’ll have a few links of must-follows for the WNBA season at the bottom of this newsletter, but I wanted to give you a quick overview of what is happening this weekend first: All 12 teams will be in action this weekend!! The season tips off at today (July 25) at noon ET on ESPN, where the Seattle Storm (Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd) will take on the New York Liberty (Sabrina Ionescu, Layshia Clarendon).

Then at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC, the Los Angeles Sparks (Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray) will take on the Phoenix Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith). Finally, at 5:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network the defending champion Washington Mystics (Emma Meesseman, Ariel Atkins) will battle the Indiana Fever (Candice Dupree, Teaira McCowan).

But as thrilling as the basketball is sure to be, it’s far from the most important thing that will be taking place on the court at IMG this weekend. The entire season is dedicated to social justice; the WNBA and the WNBA Players Association launched “The Justice Movement,” to amplify the voices of WNBA players. Games will be dedicated to Black Lives Matter and the #SayHerName campaign.

This weekend, all WNBA players will be wearing Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys. That’s what today’s newsletter will be about.

To WNBA players, Breonna Taylor is far more than a meme. She’s their ‘why.’

This summer, the United States — and really, the whole world — erupted in protests over police brutality and systemic racism after police in Minnesota murdered George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, was subsequently fired, arrested, and charged with second-degree murder.

But a couple of months before Floyd’s death, on March 13, plainsclothes Louisville police officers entered the apartment of Breonna Taylor with a battering ram and a no-knock warrant in hand. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were asleep. Walker, understandably, believed they were intruders, and picked up his licensed firearm. The Louisville police officers fired over 20 shots, Taylor was shot eight times. She was allegedly alive for more than five minutes after being shot, but the officers didn’t provide any aid. The police at the scene didn’t alert dispatch about Taylor until 27 minutes after she was shot; meanwhile, an officer injured non-fatally in the shooting was on his way to the hospital within 10 minutes.

Only one of the officers at the scene has been fired. None have been arrested or charged for her murder.

The WNBA Players Association released a video on Saturday explaining Taylor’s case, and urging everyone to contact Attorney General Daniel Cameron and demand that her killers be arrested.

Over the past week, I have talked with WNBA players from across the league about what it means to them to wear Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of their jersey, and what they hope the impact will be. To start the WNBA season, I am going to post some of their answers in full. Their words matter.

Angel McCoughtry, Las Vegas Aces

We’ll begin with Angel McCoughtry, the Las Vegas Aces star who was the first player to float this idea a couple of months ago. McCoughtry went to Louisville for college, and was classmates with AG Daniel Cameron.

Power Plays: How did you come up with the idea to put Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of WNBA jerseys, and what does it mean to you that the entire league will be representing Taylor this weekend?

Angel McCoughtry: It's amazing. You know, me and my business partner, we brainstorm ideas every week. And we were brainstorming some ideas of what we can do to to advocate while we're playing. During that time there were so many NBA players [saying basketball would be a distraction from the fight to end racism.] I remember Dwight Howard was like, “Oh, it's a distraction right now. They shouldn't be playing. There's too much going on.”

Well, first of all, we can still play and still fight and use our platforms to fight for social injustice and different initiatives. So that idea came about with us trying to show that, hey, let's let's use our platform as a way to fight. That's where the names on the jerseys came from. And when I presented it to league, at first they were like, “Okay?” I was like, “Well, let's make this happen!” And they were like, “You know, let's just see.” And I know they had a lot going on, but then I said, well, I'm gonna make a petition just in case. And then when that happened it just blew up —the NBA got the idea, you know what I'm saying? (winks)

But I'm glad, because that's what was needed to show our platforms and be able to do that. So really, it blew up bigger than what I expected. And I'm glad it did. We all got on a call with Breonna Taylor's mom, the whole WNBA, on zoom. It was just lovely. So great things will come up out of this, this this is not the last of the ideas that these amazing woman have in the league that we're going to pursue, but this was a great start.

PP: What was the call with Taylor’s mom like? What did that mean to you?

AM: It was emotional. One, because to see her be so strong, to lose a daughter in such a horrific way, and justice not be served right in front of your face. Just to see her strength. Stacey Abrams was on the call. It's good that you know, Stacey Abrams reached out (to the WNBPA), that they saw the initiatives. I'm so proud of the league, because we've been we've definitely been leading by example for other sports.

It was just really emotional. And it was just a lot of strength. We commended her mom, and told her we're gonna fight [and support] any ideas that can help her and her family, like the Breonna Taylor Foundation. That's what we're going to do to help, and just not her, but other families that have gone through the same thing, police brutality. So I think it was life changing for all the women on the zoom call.

PP: You went to Louisville. Have you been able to use any of your connections in this fight, and has that made this story more personal for you?

AM: Well, absolutely. I've been doing media there like crazy just to fight. You’ve got to keep the pressure on, when you keep the pressure on we know things happen. We know that justice hasn't happened yet, but we know that eventually something's going to happen. I believe it.

It's funny because Daniel Cameron, the attorney general, we went to school together. I know him well. I have not talked to him. But I've been tweeting his butt and Instagramming his butt like crazy, “Arrest these cops.”

He saw (my message). He saw it. So hopefully he's feeling that pressure and hopefully, you know, something will get done soon.

Natalie Achonwa, Indiana Fever

PP: What does it mean to you to have Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey?

NA: It's bigger than me. It's bigger than Breonna Taylor. The “Say Her Name” initiative is bigger than Breonna Taylor. Being able to be part of that round table talk we had with her mother and the WNBA family and WNBPA family the other day, reassured that for me — that for everyone to be able to see Breonna Taylor’s on Natalie Achonwa's jersey, on Candice Dupree's jersey, on any teammate of mine, is a reminder that we matter. That also could have been us. We could have been Breonna Taylor.

And we have a lot of work to do. But as a league and as a Players Association, we will do that work to back up all of the talk — we will walk the talk. We love to talk the talk, but just know that we are a community that is both vocal but active. We will make sure that not only will we say her name, but we will ensure that people continue to say her name and make the changes necessary in our communities that we won't have to.

Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

PP: What does it mean to you to be able to wear Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey, and as a white player in a predominantly Black league, how do you view your role in this social justice movement, the fight for racial equality?

SI: I'm honored to be able to wear that name on the back of my jersey. She deserves it, her family deserves it, everyone fighting for this deserves it. I know how much our team have values being able to wear her name on the back of our jerseys, wearing shirts walking into the game with, "Say Her Name." And so that's something huge, that's something that we continue to talk about and finding ways that we could continue to impact the world through the platform that we have as athletes, and especially on this team.

Obviously, as a white player, I don't necessarily face everything that they face, but I do understand and I am here to listen. And so that's what I've been trying to do, listen to the challenges that they're facing, the feelings that they have, and use what I can, the platform that I have to continue to advocate for change that we all want to see as a team.

The New York Liberty play and demand justice for #BreonnaTaylor. #SayHerName
July 25, 2020

Myisha Hines-Allen, Washington Mystics

PP: What does it mean to you to have Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey?

MHA: It means a lot to me. For one, just the fact that I went to Louisville, it kind of like sticks a little more into me, because Louisville is Louisville. So that's kind of like more touching to me, it feels and hits close to home.

But it's just like, another black individual died. It's just sickening, there's no other words for it, in my opinion. Just to have her name on the back of my jersey — I'm going to have it on my throughout the whole season — it's going to mean a lot. I'm not just playing for myself. Before I was playing for not just myself but my family, now I'm playing for something more, something bigger.

Essence Carson, Washington Mystics

PP: What does it mean to you to have Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey?

EC: Well it means a lot that we can take a stand together as players. And not only as players but as a league, because you know, it's a little difficult sometimes when you have your own personal beliefs, and you have an organization behind you that sometimes they can't necessarily, you know, back you up, for whatever reason.

But in this case, to see that we’ve all come together on the front lines with this, in this way, it means a lot, not only to me, but to all the players around the league. And it's taking a stand, and it shows that the league itself, you know, stands for something and stands for equality. You know, we're standing up against social injustice police brutality and racial violence. To have, you know, an organization of this magnitude behind you, it just means a lot, and we're going to continue to champion this fight this entire season.

We are BLACK WOMEN! We are resilient. We build. We don’t tear down other BLACK WOMEN!⁣
We have felt the pain of being torn down and we have decided we will be deliberate about building others!⁣
⠀⁣
All too often, we WOMEN find it easier to criticize each other, instead of building each other up. With all the negativity going around let’s do something positive!! ⁣

Upload 1 picture of yourself ... ONLY you. Then tag your SISTERS to do the same. Let’s build ourselves up! If I didn’t tag you please don’t be offended. I couldn’t tag all my Queens. Challenge accepted @missfit_bennett @jolaubii. Bless.
June 7, 2020

Aerial Powers, Washington Mystics

PP: What does it mean to you to have Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey?

AP: It means a lot. I'm extremely happy that the WNBA took this time to put the name Breonna Taylor on the back of the jersey. You know, we try to do as much as we can with our platform and our voices. But the fact that we have the WNBA backing us just puts us in the forefront when it comes to getting social social justice. So, I'm really happy about it.

Unfortunately, you know, no one's been arrested yet, but I feel like with our voices continuing this Black Lives Matter movement, things are gonna change. So I'm happy that the WNBA backed us.

You know, (the WNBA had) to talk to the sponsors on our jerseys to ask if her name could be even put on a jersey, which I just learned last night. So the fact that even our sponsors are backing us, it means a lot.

Sydney Wiese, Los Angeles Sparks

PP: What does it mean to you to be able to wear Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of your jersey? And as a white player in a predominantly Black league, how do you view your role in the Black Lives Matter movement?

SW: It reminds me of the point. You know, we talk about basketball, we talk about championships, we talk about each game, but that's the point. We are out here to use our platform. Basketball is our vessel.

And I'm here to learn. I'm here to ask questions I'm here to do what I can to be an ally, to be actively anti racist, and I've been learning on the go. You know, I'm new to being vocal, I'm new to really stepping into this reality that has been present throughout the whole existence of our country, and really owning that history, and looking how we can be better and how we can actively initiate change and how we can amplify voices.

I'm just here to learn to observe, and then also to use my platform to speak. Because silence is no longer an option. And so, first what was holding me back was, I didn't want to say the wrong thing, I didn't feel like it was my place to say anything. But there's no time for that anymore. To have her name on the back of our jersey, that's what it's about. She represents so many others. So many others that don't necessarily have the platform that we do, and we're going to make sure that we use this platform to the best of our abilities to make sure that she is remembered, and that she gets justice.

For more resources to get prepared for the WNBA season, and to follow throughout the WNBA season, I recommend:

If you are a Power Plays paid subscriber, remember that you get access to our special Slack channel, where we will all be watching the WNBA season together, and helping one another learn new things! Check your subscribers-only emails, like this one, for directions on how to get access.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, remember that you can get 22% off an annual Power Plays membership this weekend!!

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