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The WNBA’s season kicked off this Saturday by not starting at all. Instead, players from the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty walked off the court during the national anthem in an act of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Following their walk-off, the players held a 26-second moment of silence in memory of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old certified EMT who was shot to death by police officers while asleep in her Louisville apartment on March 13.

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor — an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,” said Layshia Clarendon, a player for New York Liberty. She also stated that the season would be dedicated to the Say Her Name Campaign, a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for Black women victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence. “We will say her name: Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Dominique 'Rem’mie' Fells and Breonna Taylor,” Clarendon said. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.” 

Nneka Ogwumike, a player for the Los Angeles Sparks and WNBPA president, stated Taylor’s mother and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams had previously spoken with members of the WNBA. “We just hope we’re doing what we discussed on that call: upholding her name, celebrating her, and obviously bringing awareness,” she said. “Black women are so often forgotten in this world and in a league where we have 70% and plus black women, this is our reality.”

The players who have chosen to opt-out of the season have been met with support from figures like Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who committed $1.5M to supplement their incomes whether because of COVID-19 safety concerns or social justice reasons. The funds will come from the KAI Empowerment Initiative that Irving launched Monday, and will also provide players with a financial literacy program created by UBS.

"Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,'' Irving said in a statement. Womxn supporting womxn — now that’s what we like to see!

Image via Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Riley Mayes is a student at Smith College where she is pursuing her BA in English. She currently lives in Brunswick, Maine, where she loves to go hiking, take care of her plants, and read the heaps of books on her bedside table. New to the twitter game https://twitter.com/RileyMayes3 

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