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Hoops Happening: ‘Dear little girl’: Moving equality from inspiration into practice

Plus, teams return to competition today after an exciting All-Star Weekend filled with friendly competition, broken records and history made. This is today in women’s basketball for Tuesday July 31, 2018!

Candace Parker, with daughter Lailaa, on the orange carpet ahead of the WNBA All-Star Welcome Reception on July 27, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN.
Brianna Lewerke/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the most glorious moments of the WNBA All-Star Game 2018 occurred before tipoff, when Billie Jean King — breaker of barriers in sport and society — uttered the words: “Dear little girl.”

Against a backdrop of little girls dribbling, swimming, shooting and batting — intermixed with cuts to some of the most dominant women in sports — King issued the biggest equality-based pep talk ever.

“What you can achieve will not be defined by the color of your skin, by age, who you love or by being a girl,” King narrates. She then implores the younger generation to look to their elders for the “courage, heart and perseverance to fight on, to challenge small-minded thinking,” and to shatter any glass ceilings that remain.

All of this plays out nicely as inspiration and theory, but too often these ideals do not leave the limits of the court or field. The reality is that, off the court, WNBA players have been harassed online for weeks this season for daring to protest pay inequities. The reality, too, is that last year LeBron James’ LA-area home was vandalized with the N-word painted on it, Sterling Brown was brutalized by police over a parking infraction in an incident that easily could have turned deadly for him, and every day African Americans face SWAT-level responses to calls to police over non-crimes, like waiting in a Starbucks for a friend, barbecuing in a park, using a discount coupon — and because kids will not be spared — mowing lawns or selling bottles of water on a hot day.

For society to truly advance on issues of equality, it is paramount that people stop purporting concepts that fail to acknowledge the unique struggles of some groups, whether it is women, people of color or LGBTQ+ individuals.

It is easy to flippantly attribute a lack of financial reward to a lack of hard work, for example. But Diana Taurasi’s accomplishments — comparable only with a few elites in the NBA and WNBA — has not received compensation comparable to her achievements. This is not because she did not work hard enough. And it also isn’t lack of hard work that leaves some in our society toiling in poverty despite degrees and a willingness to work multiple jobs to change their station in a society supported by systems that make it hard for many people to do so.

And, usually, it is the myopic view of white privilege driving claims that respect should never be demanded and can only ever be earned — an overly simplistic analysis that must be challenged. Surely, Rosa Parks was right to demand the same respect afforded to the white bus-riders in Montgomery, Alabama: the ability to sit down where she pleased at the end of a long workday. Parks was not asking for anything special; she demanded the exact same courtesy, decency and respect afforded to others by basic human right. By nature of being human, rather than three-fifths human, she earned this right — and, yes, respect — when she purchased a token to ride the bus.

So, King is right in her narration: Achievement will not be defined by skin color, age, sexual orientation or gender. But the argument needs to be furthered. Still, in 2018, people experience undue obstacles because of their skin color, age, sexual orientation or gender, meaning many in these groups still have to work twice as hard — and, often, twice as long — to achieve half of what is more easily afforded their white and/or male counterparts.

This idea shows up repeatedly in discussions between Eli and Olivia Pope on Shonda Rhime’s Scandal, but White America must come to understand that this isn’t a plot scheme for entertainment value alone. It is the truth of how many African Americans raise their children, to give them a slim shot at success in an institutionalized racist and sexist society.

The WNBA All-Star Game put a diverse group of fierce competitors on the world stage, for all to see, and the video to kick it all off, through King’s narration, presented an impressive reflection upon the past and the work yet to be done in the future. But hoping that younger generations have a more fair path to realizing their dreams is not enough. Society must demand that all people are treated equally, and with respect, so that any young girl currently chasing dreams — hoops or otherwise — will not also have to overcome the same battles as generations past or present.

A refusal to recognize the struggles of others, oftentimes amounting to the very existence of those people, is — like racism and sexism, generally — a type of violence.

Most recently in game play

Team Parker grabbed victory over Team Delle Donne at the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday. Allie Quigley was successful in keeping the three-point shooting crown. And Maya Moore did Maya Moore-like things: win, win, break records, make history.

Next up in the WNBA ...

Three big primetime matchups — all on NBA TV and Twitter.

Stay tuned for previews!

Where things stand

To start the week, the Seattle Storm remain at the top of the standings with a 2.5-game lead over the Atlanta Dream, who upset the league’s best teams (including Seattle) to arrive at second place. With a sizable chip on their shoulders, the Dream will look to continue turning dreams into nightmares for the league’s other 11 teams.

The battle in the middle of the pack remains chaotic and subject to change from one game to the next. But the Las Vegas Aces threaten the biggest upset of all, as they teeter one game below .500 and just 1.5 games behind the Connecticut Sun for eighth in the standings and a playoff spot.

The Sun will fight tooth and nail to keep from falling out of playoff contention while the Sky, soaring after Allie Quigley’s performance in the All-Star Game three-point contest and Courtney Vandersloot’s recent history-making performance, are expected to make a hard push for the playoffs as well.

Drink up, link lush!

WNBA All-Star Game 2018 saw the highest rating since 2015, furthering the notion that if networks broadcast the WNBA viewers will watch.

  • The LA Sparks hold their traveling practice this evening at the Marlborough School in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It begins at 5 p.m. local time and fans can purchase $30 tickets for entry by calling 1.844.GO.SPARKS.
  • Las Vegas will host the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 and the Aces are already accepting deposits on what naturally will be the hottest ticket in town.
  • The Phoenix Mercury have a plan to fill the Sancho Lyttle-sized hole, and her name is Devereaux Peters.
  • Rosters are set for the Jr. NBA World Championship, taking place August 7-12 in Orlando. Diana Taurasi’s California Storm youth team, and Skylar Diggins-Smith’s Sky Diggs Soldiers youth team, will be competing in the tournament.
  • EA Sports now allows players to create female characters. Hooray! But, file to: What Took You So Long?
  • In Sharon Brown’s interview with Cynthia Johnson, mother to Jevon Carter, it’s all heart in hoop city but a heck of a lot of sacrifice and a healthy emphasis on education, too.
  • LeBron James continues to put his money where his mouth is, which is a heck of a lot more than the talking heads who tell him to shut up and dribble would ever do. What a hopeful way for these fortunate kids to start a new school year.

How to #WatchThemWork all season

Shine brighter. * flicker flicker *