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WNBA Players Walk Off During National Anthem, Dedicate Season to Breonna Taylor

On July 25, players from the WNBA decided to take a power stance during its delayed season-opening game. During the national anthem, all members from both New York Liberty and Seattle Storm walked off the court and returned to their respective locker rooms at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The players later revealed that they would dedicate the entire season to Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician who, at 26, lost her life at the hands of police.

Before the game, players held a 26-second moment of silence for Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officer inside her home on March 13, 2020.

Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon released a statement to TIME saying, “We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home. Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around here.”

The basketball star also revealed that they would be honoring Taylor this upcoming season. “We are also dedicating this season to ‘Say Her Name’ campaign,” the athlete explained. “A campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice of black women—black women are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who don’t have people marching in the streets for them. We will say her name: Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Dominique’ Rem’mie Fells and Breonna Taylor. We will be a voice for the voiceless.” During the game, Taylor’s full name was displayed on the back of both teams’ jerseys as part of their campaign.

However, their activism didn’t stop there. Right before the national athem played, players from both teams walked out. Clarendon told ESPN that “kneeling doesn’t even feel like enough to protest.”  “I don’t want to hear the anthem. I don’t want to stand out there. I don’t want to be anywhere near it, because it’s ridiculous that justice and freedom are just not offered to everybody equally,” the athlete explained. 

In 2016, former NFL player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem as it played during football games as a way to bring awareness to police brutality and racial injustice.

The WNBA move comes after the the league announced earlier this month that “Black Lives Matter” would be prominently displayed on its courts during games this season. “Working together with the WNBPA [players’ association] and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond,” league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

She added, “Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”

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