Even before embarking for Bradenton, Florida, the Sky knew this season was about much more than basketball.
Sure, winning a championship is a priority for a team that was one shot away from the semifinals last season. But the Sky also felt a calling to use their platform in the “Wubble” to continue the conversation about systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S.
Over the course of several Zoom meetings leading up to the season, the Sky came to an agreement that whatever they decided to do they were going to do it as one.
“We’re stronger together,” Gabby Williams said.
The result was a social-justice initiative, announced Tuesday, called “Sky Takes Action,” in which players will donate their own money — based on game-day performance — to several Chicago organizations that are already making an impact in the community.
“It’s just us trying to do our part,” said Diamond DeShields, one of the masterminds behind the initiative. “There’s so much work that needs to be done, and to be able to be a part of something like this with the Sky family and all of our fans and everybody, it feels nice, it feels refreshing. This is an empowering moment and there’s so much work that needs to be done, but we feel this is a good step.”
Before the season, the WNBA launched a social-justice committee, which includes Sky guard Sydney Colson, who’s still waiting to clear the league’s COVID-19 protocols so she can join the team in Florida.
During the opening weekend, players walked off the court before the national anthem and held a 26-second moment of silence in recognition of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police in March. The Sky will join the rest of the league in wearing Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys throughout the season.
This is the latest chapter in WNBA players’ long history of being the most committed and vocal group of professional athletes when it comes to social activism.
In 2016, the Lynx donned warmup shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” and on the back had the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two Black men killed by police. That same season, the Fever, Liberty and Mercury wore black T-shirts intended to draw attention to recent police shootings. The Fever also kneeled during the anthem before a playoff game.
More recently, four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore missed the 2019 and 2020 seasons to advocate for criminal-justice reform while she helped free a wrongfully convicted man from a Missouri prison.
DeShields said she feels blessed to carry on the league’s legacy.
“It’s very, very neat to be able to be a part of such a strong and powerful group of women and to have seen what players have done before me,” she said. “I know I’m young, but I think it’s our duty to step up in moments like this and to continue and carry on the message and to try to make sure we are utilizing our platforms the best we can. That’s what the league has always been about.”
And what the league, DeShields said, will continue to be about.
“We’re all in this fight together, and I would just like to encourage everybody to continue to be bold and be strong,” DeShields said. “We’re all in this together, and Black Lives Matter, all day.”