WNBA players trying to spark social change through respectful action, dialogue

  • FILE - In this June 26, 2019 file photo, Tamika Catchings poses for a photo inside Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Catchings is part of a nine-person group announced Saturday, April 4, 2020,  as this year's class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    FILE - In this June 26, 2019 file photo, Tamika Catchings poses for a photo inside Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Catchings is part of a nine-person group announced Saturday, April 4, 2020, as this year's class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/6/2020 9:10 PM

An iconic elk statue in downtown Portland had to be removed on Thursday because it was severely damaged when rioters lit it on fire.

Lighting an elk on fire?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So, what does that prove?

What does any of the destruction happening around the country right now prove, or solve?

Even in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's death, at the height of the rioting and protesting, Floyd's own children, as well as his brother Terrence, came out and publicly denounced violence and looting. The family feared that the most important messages about social justice and police reform that surrounded George Floyd's death would get lost in senseless actions.

"Tearing up things, it's not going to solve anything," said Quincy Mason Floyd, George Floyd's son.

What could solve some of these poignant issues is real action, peaceful and purposeful action. There are some athletes out there, many in the WNBA, who are speaking up in a thoughtful and respectful way to try to make a difference with action that could actually stimulate real change, such as change of policy and change of thought.

Former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, now the general manager of the Indiana Fever and the owner of a boutique tea shop in downtown Indianapolis, is hosting conversations on social media with local and national leaders and influencers with the hope of sparking ideas of how to present lawmakers with legitimate options for reforming law enforcement.

Every first Tuesday of the month, Catchings co-hosts a Facebook Live Conversation from her Tea's Me Cafe in Indianapolis. The next conversation, via the cafe's Facebook page, is this Tuesday at 5 p.m. Central.

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Catchings told me that she is especially intrigued by the #8CantWait initiative pushed by Campaign Zero. The eight-step plan, which Catchings would like to lobby for locally, is supposed to decrease police violence significantly.

Meanwhile, current WNBA star Angel McCoughtry, who recently signed with the Las Vegas Aces after spending the first decade of her career with the Atlanta Dream, has come up with the idea of players in both the WNBA and NBA being allowed to remove their own names from the back of their game jerseys to wear the names of people who have been killed or injured due to police violence or social injustice. McCoughtry also wants front-line COVID-19 workers to be included in that mix.

"I am currently working with the (Las Vegas Aces) and the (WNBA) to use our voices, our uniforms and our sport to continue to impact and create real change," McCoughtry wrote on her Instagram account.

"The goal is also to create a relationship with the families of who's name the athlete has chosen. This is a way to use our platform to be a helping hand during these trying times. Silence is an ally for evil and when sports resume, we will not be silent."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sports won't resume for WNBA players Renee Montgomery, Tiffany Hayes and Natasha Cloud. At least not this season. They announced recently that they will sit out the 2020 WNBA season, which is scheduled to begin on July 24 in Bradenton, Florida, to pursue social justice reform. Cloud, a player for the defending champion Washington Mystics, has already been particularly active in fighting against gun violence in the metro Washington D.C. area.

Likewise, WNBA superstar Maya Moore has already sat out one season (2019), and will sit out another (2020) to pursue her own social justice causes.

Moore's efforts in criminal justice reform grabbed national headlines when she announced last year that she was sitting out the 2019 WNBA season to help overturn the conviction of a Missouri man she got to know while she was in high school. He was sentenced to a 50-year jail sentence when he was just 16.

After a year of tirelessly reviewing documents, and sitting in courtrooms, Moore watched on Wednesday as Jonathan Irons, now 40, walked free from the Jefferson City Correctional Center after serving 22 years for burglary and assault with a weapon.

Irons' lawyers, some of whom were financed by Moore, said that there was no evidence (witnesses, fingerprints, footprints, DNA) to corroborate that Irons committed the crime.

In March, a judge agreed and vacated Irons' convictions.

Moore told theundefeated.com that she has been inspired by seeing other athletes trying to make a real difference in their communities by making personal and professional sacrifices like she has.

"Seeing athletes looking inside of themselves saying, 'What can I do to empower someone else,' is amazing," Moore said. "I'm pumped that people are understanding where the real change lies as far as giving something up."

• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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