The WNBA honored Juneteenth on Saturday, sharing information about the new federal holiday on all of its social-media platforms.
In the posts, the league encouraged fans and followers to learn about the history of Juneteenth and its significance in U.S. history, to support Black-owned businesses and to gather safely to celebrate.
At Wintrust Arena, a Juneteenth graphic was displayed on the video board before the game between the Sun and Sky and players wore Black Lives Matter warmup shirts. Additionally, ‘‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’’ was played before the starting lineups were announced.
But as teams across the league honored the holiday and engaged fans about its history, Republican lawmakers in states across the country have proposed legislation to limit the teaching of important concepts such as racial equity and white privilege.
‘‘Our society here is shameful,’’ Sky coach and general manager James Wade said. ‘‘It’s shameful for a myriad of reasons. They want to give us a holiday. They make up this [phrase] called ‘critical race theory’ where they justify not teaching Black history because they don’t want to apologize for what they did to African Americans.’’
The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Wednesday making June 19 a state holiday.
Wade said making Juneteenth a holiday in some ways can be seen as a distraction. The passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and other policies addressing racial inequities is what Wade would prefer to see.
The WNBA’s efforts to acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth is one part of its continuing social-justice efforts. Wade said he is proud of what the league has done to go beyond words and into activism.
Before the Sky’s 91-81 victory against the Sun, Diamond DeShields wore a hat that read: ‘‘Legalize melanin.’’
Courtney Vandersloot echoed Wade’s sentiments that the WNBA has gone beyond lip service and has taken action on social-justice initiatives.
‘‘The league has been at the forefront since the beginning of the league,’’ Vandersloot said. ‘‘We can only do so much as a league, and hopefully that influences others.’’
Vandersloot notched her third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 11 assists in the Sky’s victory. Ruthy Hebard added 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting off the bench.
The Sky went on a 24-8 run to end the second quarter and led by six points at the half. Still, there were 13 lead changes and nine ties before the Sky (7-7) sealed their fifth consecutive victory to put them at .500 after a 2-7 start.
The Sky kick off a five-game road trip Tuesday against the Liberty in New York. They lost to the Liberty 93-85 at home last month.