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Following Chauvin verdict, WNBA players express continued commitment to fight for justice

On Tuesday, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. While WNBA players recognized this as a victory in the fight for justice, they also realized it was an incomplete victory. In turn, players, as well as the league and its teams, re-emphasized their commitment to the quest for full justice and equality.

Connecticut Sun v Los Angeles Sparks
WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

This verdict may begin to tell us, tell the world that the death of a Black person in America will not be overlooked. That the growing epidemic of police violence against Black people must end, will end, today. — WNBPA, “Justice for George Floyd”

During the 2020 WNBA season, WNBA players refused to overlook, and refused to allow fans to overlook, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans killed by police. By dedicating the season to social justice, the players used their platform to amplify the fears, violences and injustices disproportionately experienced by Black people in United States, especially in regard to interactions with the police.

Even after justice has been meted out — with a jury finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon — WNBA players will not overlook, and will refuse to allow fans to overlook, the fact that the American ideal of “liberty and justice for all” is far from a reality.

For WNBA players, like many Americans, the surprising results of the trial, as police officers rarely have been convicted for perpetrating deadly violence against Black Americans, inspired an overwhelming sense of relief. Yet, this reaction — surprise and relief for the conviction of a police officer who murdered a Black man in broad daylight and on camera — underscores how much work remains to be done.

As reigning MVP A’ja Wilson emphasized in a statement:

We are grateful that today’s verdict brought accountability, however centuries of systemic racism still permeate our society. The fight for racial justice and equality continues. My teammates and I, along with the entirety of the WNBA, will not rest until the words of George Floyd’s daughter Gianna become a reality: ‘Daddy changed the world.’

For WNBA players, the work is far from done

A number of other WNBA players echoed Wilson’s words on social media.

On Tuesday night on NBA on TNT, Candace Parker articulated the work required — by WNBA players, by other athletes, by other Americans — to achieve full, unfettered and unqualified “justice”:

We’re sitting here on a sports show speaking about justice, and speaking about things that are going on in our court system. It’s not okay just to be a bystander of justice or our political system or democracy. And I think democracy, we think of as a destination and it’s a continuous journey and it has to be thought of that way. And just because we’re athletes...we have to actively participate in that because if we’re not we’re not doing our job...we’re failing the generation that comes after us...If you look at the past, and how many people before had to die and had to not receive justice for this to happen today...Although this was a step in the right direction, I think it’s really about accountability but it’s also understanding that this isn’t ‘it.’ There’s far more trials that are going other directions that shouldn’t, that don’t, that’s aren’t just. And so, yes, this is a step in the right direction; we still have so much more to go.

The WNBA expresses support for continuing quest for social justice

The WNBA and its organizations, continuing to take cues from their players, also issued statements in response to the verdict, redoubling their commitments to social justice initiatives.

What’s next for WNBA players in this fight?

Last week, the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council introduced its focus for the 2021 season. While celebrating “the players’ history of advocacy,” the Social Justice Council will undertake another “season of advocacy” and continue to work “to combat racial injustice and promote voting rights, champion gender equality and LGBTQ+ advocacy, and advance public health initiatives.”

We look forward to seeing how WNBA players, led by the Social Justice Council, will use the platform provided by the 2021 season to push for change.