The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) today announced the launch of a new platform, The Justice Movement, and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. The collaborative efforts of the League and the Players Association represent an unprecedented and bold new commitment to advancing social justice by the longest-standing U.S. sports league for women, as well as the first labor union for professional women athletes. The mission of the Social Justice Council is to be a driving force of necessary and continuing conversations about race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control amongst other important societal issues.
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.
The work of the Social Justice Council will be led by players like Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, A’ja Wilson and Satou Sabally, among others. Those who have proudly stepped up to champion and advise the players include Alicia Garza (Founder, Black Future Labs, political activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter), Carolyn DeWitt (CEO, Rock the Vote), and Beverly Bond (Founder/CEO, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and Celebrity DJ). The expanded list of Social Justice Council members, advisors, and programming will be announced at a later date.
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.
“We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond. 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.”
“As many WNBA players–past and present–have said and, more importantly, consistently demonstrated, the reason why you see us engaging and leading the charge when it comes to social advocacy is because it is in our DNA,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike. “With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world. And may we all recognize that the league’s stated commitment to us – in this season and beyond – offers a pivotal moment in sports history.”
As part of The Justice Movement platform, the WNBA and players will continue to work together to drive impactful, measurable, and meaningful change.