Players on the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm WNBA teams walked off the court before the U.S. national anthem played ahead of their game on Saturday in a social justice protest.
The WNBA players said in remarks before the game that their demonstration was over the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman killed in March after police forced their way into her home while executing a no-knock warrant. Liberty player Layshia Clarendon stood at mid-court with Storm’s Breanna Stewart before the start of the game at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and dedicated the season to Taylor, according to the New York Post.
“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,” Clarendon said. “Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around here. We are also dedicating this season to ‘Say Her Name’ campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice of black women – black women are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who don’t have people marching in the streets for them. We will say her name. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Dominique Remy Fells. Breonna Taylor. We will be a voice for the voiceless.”
Correction: Players left the court before the national anthem was played, not during. https://t.co/MdW7HtMO1P
— ESPN (@espn) July 26, 2020
The protest appears to escalate public displays targeting the national anthem that are sweeping professional sports. On Thursday night, professional baseball players with the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees knelt together before the anthem played.
“Today, and every day, we come together as brothers. As equals, all with the same goal – to level the playing field. To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right! Today we stand as men from 25 nations on 6 continents. Today, we are one,” Major League Baseball’s official Twitter account said in a message with a video of the protest.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Giants’ social media account aggressively defended a group of its players, coaches, and a manager who knelt during the national anthem before an exhibition game against Oakland Athletics. The Giants’ twitter account repeatedly responded to critics of the demonstration on the platform asserting that the demonstration was about “human rights” and was not “political.
“I did that because I wanted them to know I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. “I told them I wanted to amplify their voices, and I wanted to amplify the voices of the Black community and marginalized communities, as well.”
Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod made headlines on Thursday after he was the only player among his team and the Los Angeles Dodgers who did not kneel prior to the national anthem being played. Coonrod later cited his Christian faith for the reason he remained standing.
“I meant no ill will by it,” Coonrod said. “I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I’m a Christian. I just believe I can’t kneel before anything besides God — Jesus Christ.”
“I chose not to kneel,” he added. “I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn’t mean any ill will toward anyone.”
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This piece has been corrected to reflect that the WNBA players walked off the court before the national anthem played, not during. An initial tweet by ESPN reporting that the protest took place during the national anthem has been taken down and corrected.