Back in June, Las Vegas Aces star Angel McCoughtry took to Twitter with a simple message. "Say their names on our jerseys," McCoughtry wrote, accompanied by a picture of her Aces jersey featuring "Breonna Taylor" instead of "McCoughtry." Now, a few weeks later, McCoughtry's campaign has been approved by the league.
When the 2020 WNBA season begins later this month, players will be allowed to wear jerseys honoring women who were victims of police and racial violence. In addition, they will wear warm-up shirts that say "Black Lives Matter" on the front, and "Say Her Name" on the back. Via the league's press release:
The WNBA will begin its season in late July with a weekend of competition centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, during which teams will wear special uniforms to seek justice for the women and girls, including Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and many more who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence. Throughout the season, players will wear NIKE-branded warm-up shirts that display "Black Lives Matter" on the front. Additionally, "Say Her Name" will adorn the back of the shirts. "Black Lives Matter" will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.
"God is so Amazing!!" McCoughtry tweeted on Monday. "We have yet to scratch the surface into making a better America ! People have asked , what is putting the names on a jersey gonna do ? Well we plant seed for a better tomorrow. Yes , it takes time to grow but in due time amazing things will bloom."
Taylor's death, which happened back in March when Louisville police shot and killed her in her home while she was asleep, has become a focal point for the resurgent social justice movement across the country. According to ESPN, McCoughtry and the league reached out to Taylor's family about the idea.
"Breonna's mom [Tamika Palmer] was very honored the players wanted to do this in honor of Breonna and all the other women killed in police custody," Lonita Baker, attorney for Taylor's family said. "And also that proceeds from the sales of the jerseys will go to the Breonna Taylor Foundation
In addition, the league will be forming a Social Justice Council comprised of Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, A'ja Wilson and Satou Sabally, among others.
In its inaugural season, the Social Justice Council will cultivate designated spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, and other activations to address this country's long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities. With an intentional plan to educate, amplify and mobilize for action, the WNBA and the WNBPA will focus on engaging educators, activists, community and business leaders with players, team and league staff, and fans. With a common goal to build bridges to communities and create sustainable change, the League and the Players Association are committed to continuing this collaborative work at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Official Home of the WNBA 2020 Season.
Eight different players have announced their plans to sit out the 2020 season, with Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery and Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud specifically citing a desire to continue fighting for social justice.
Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore will also not be playing in 2020, though she made that decision long before the coronavirus pandemic. She stepped away from the game after the 2018 season to help fight for the release of a Missouri man whom she believed was wrongfully imprisoned. After 22 years in prison, he was released last week.
The 2020 season is set to begin on July 24, though no schedule has been released. Teams traveled to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the season will be hosted, on Monday.