The WNBA is planning to hold the 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, starting in July – but not all players will be there.
Guard Natasha Cloud and post player LaToya Sanders – two starters from the WNBA defending champion Washington Mystics – will sit out. Additionally, post player Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun, who finished third in the WNBA MVP voting last season, announced her decision to not play.
Cloud is choosing not to play to focus on social reform, while Sanders and Jones cited health reasons.
Cloud, Sanders and Jones join Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery – who said she intends to sit out the season to help continue the fight for social justice reform in the US – in not playing.
Another Atlanta Dream player, guard Tiffany Hayes, has also said she will skip the season, stating in an Instagram post, “This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything that is going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment.”
In January, before it was known the coronavirus pandemic would disrupt the season schedule, Minnesota Lynx superstar Maya Moore said she would sit out a second consecutive season to continue to fight for criminal justice reform.
“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career but I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season,” Cloud said, according to a press release from the Mystics and a post by Cloud on Instagram.
“There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead continue the fight for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”
On Friday, Cloud told CNN ahead of a “Together We Stand” march in Washington, DC: “We have a voice that can be used for the voiceless. We have this platform to sit in front of all these cameras and this media be a voice and to use our voices in the right and correct way.
“So I challenge all of us: If you’re staying silent, you’re part of the problem. If you’re choosing to be neutral, you’re choosing the side of the oppressor.
“Because for our leagues, especially the NBA and WNBA, I know for us, 80% of our league is Black. So at what point for our White counterparts and our White teammates do you step up to the plate for us? You can go to war for us on the field or on the basketball court, but what are you doing behind the scenes when we go home and we’re getting pulled over on our way home?”
Cloud also said Friday ahead of the march that she had not thought about basketball the last two weeks.
“We’re not only athletes,” Cloud said. “When we take that uniform off, we are Black, men and women. We don’t get to take our skin color off and walk around the streets and have that privilege. We don’t. We don’t have a choice.
“When you’re talking about the game of basketball, today, right now, I could care less. Our calling right now is to use our God-given platforms, to use our voices and to collectively come together for something greater than all of ourselves combined.”
As for Cloud’s teammate Sanders: “This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what’s best for my health and family.”
“I wish my teammates and the entire Mystics family the best this season and I will continue to watch and support them,” said Sanders.
The Mystics won their first NBA title in franchise history last season.
Jones, in a press release through the Sun, said she “decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social, and familial growth.”
“This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of Covid-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in,” Jones said.
Both the Mystics and Sun said they support their players’ decisions.