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Sky players hope to use platforms to continue conversation about systemic racism in U.S.

Sky players are thinking of ways they can productively use their platforms to foster change and continue the conversation about systemic racism in the U.S.

Thousands of members of the community gathered to mourn the death of George Floyd during a march across downtown Houston, Texas on Tuesday.
Sydney Colson was one of the thousands of members of the community who gathered to mourn the death of George Floyd during a march across downtown Houston, Texas on Tuesday.
Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Sky guard Sydney Colson was one of the tens of thousands who marched in Houston this week during a peaceful protest against racism and police brutality. The demonstration, which was led by George Floyd’s family, worked its way through the streets to City Hall.

“Say his name! George Floyd!” the crowd chanted over and over again. Many also carried handmade signs that said, “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for Floyd,” similar to many other protests across the country.

After what had been an emotional and difficult week, Colson felt a sense of unity and hope during that rally.

“It is a good feeling to walk with other people who have the same feelings that you have who are just as outraged as you and who want to see change,” Colson said. “That is an empowering feeling.”

Colson has scrolled through social media and she’s seen the news. Along with the widespread peaceful demonstrations, videos of looting and vandalism linked to the Floyd protests have gone viral.

Colson doesn’t encourage violence, but she understands it, saying it’s the result of centuries of pent-up anger over injustices that black people have had to fight.

“It’s going to come in waves,” she said. “There might be a time when nothing has happened in the news so black people aren’t as angry but still understanding that things are not right in this nation. But yeah, I think any group who has undergone some sort of oppression reaches a point where you’re tired of being oppressed, and so I think what we’ve seen has just been everything reaching its boiling point.”

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum over the last two weeks, WNBA players, like Colson and Sky guard Diamond DeShields, are pondering ways they can productively use their platforms to help facilitate change and continue the conversation about systemic racism.

DeShields and Colson said there are many ways to stay involved in the movement even after the protests cease.

“Continue to educate, continue to have ‘the talk’ with our white counterparts who simply may not know what part they play in this big picture, and to stand strong together,” DeShields said. “One thing black people always do is we endure, and we find a way to make something out of nothin’. And we have strong, intelligent, influential players here in this league that can continue to steer our ship [the WNBA] in a better direction.”

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Thursday evening that proceeds from the “Bigger than ball” merchandise sales will go to organizations working to fight racial inequities. The WNBA also held a virtual town hall week, where Engelbert opened the floor for players to discuss race and solutions.

“We are working toward strategy and ways to express that we’ve had enough,” Colson said. “But that call was us being able to express feelings more than anything because the feeling was still very fresh.”

DeShields watched protesters march the streets from the balcony of her Bronzeville condo. Like Colson, she felt empowered and remains hopeful for the future.

“I do hope that with the undivided attention of the world that we can start to see change, that we can start to implement change and can really feel it and experience it for once,” DeShields said. “I don’t know if it’ll happen in a month, I don’t even know if I’ll see it in my lifetime honestly, but I do know that this is a movement right here. This is something that will be talked about forever and if we don’t utilize this time and act on it, then it’ll all be in vain.”