The Atlanta Dream started day one of training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on Saturday.
— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) July 11, 2020
Earlier this week Dream co-owner and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) sent a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, requesting for “less” politics in sports and stating her opposition to putting the “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” phrase on warmup jerseys. Loeffler suggested putting an American flag on all uniforms instead.
On Friday, the Dream released a powerful statement on Twitter:
“We are the women of the Atlanta Dream. We are women who support a movement. We are strong and we are fearless. We offer a voice to the voiceless. Our team is united in the Movement for Black Lives. It is not extreme to demand change after centuries of inequality. This is not a political statement. This is a statement of humanity.”
— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) July 10, 2020
After practice Elizabeth Williams spoke about the power of the team’s words and the importance of the statement reflecting the team and the WNBA.
“We thought it was really important as players to make a statement. We had a call with all the players and all the staff and the staff was really supportive and said whatever we want to do that they would support that and so for us we thought it was important to make a statement that reflected us and reflected everything that the W has stood for and stand for even while we’re in the bubble. I thought we did a really good job of explaining that representing that and we felt like we as players have the most power and what we were saying in our words and that’s why we came up with that.”
“We all have unique challenges in coaching or in any leadership position and even down here I mean there’s a lot of things that the 12 coaches here are battling that are the same.” said Coach Nicki about the team being in a different spotlight.” Certainly it hasn’t been alot of fun…We’re truly in a time where this is a movement and you know I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can look at how black lives matter and you know I quite frankly been fortunate that through my basketball playing career and my coaching career that I’ve always had proximity and understood or at least had empathy. I don’t know that I can ever truly understand, you know what it is but I do understand my white privilege, and I understand what the players are trying to say, and so you know it’s a unique situation. You know, I work for an organization and I’m just proud of the players that their choice of words were eloquent in a lot of ways. I mean it was about not that this is a political movement this is truly something that’s important to humanity and so I think that’s my perspective with them and I have to walk and step with them on these type of things.”
Williams and Blake Dietrick also spoke to the media about adjusting to a new environment and new teammates in the bubble. “I think especially the both of us, we came in with pretty open minds. I think a big part of what will make any team successful in this bubble is how you approach everything mentally so I think we come in with a good mind set.” said Williams. “I think everyone is really excited to get on the court and to play (and) kind of get through the initial quarantine. Obviously it’s an adjustment but it’s really cool and it’s also cool to have other teams all around.”
“I just think it’s an incredible opportunity I know there’s some kinks that the league is working out or IMG is working out but they are doing their best. We are doing our best to figure it out as we go. I think we’re super lucky that we’re living with people. said Blake Dietrick. “It’s really helpful to have that supports system. We are having family dinners. It normalized everything a little bit but over all I think we are doing a decent job adjusting so far.”
On Monday, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced the launch of The Justice Movement, and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. The mission of the Social Justice Council is to be a driving force of necessary and continuing conversations about race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control amongst other important societal issues.
The Social Justice Council will be led by players like Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, A’ja Wilson and Satou Sabally, among others. Those who have proudly stepped up to champion and advise the players include Alicia Garza (Founder, Black Future Labs, political activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter), Carolyn DeWitt (CEO, Rock the Vote), and Beverly Bond (Founder/CEO, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and Celebrity DJ).
The WNBA season officially returns July 25th., with a weekend of competition centered around the Black Lives Matter movement with teams wearing special uniforms to seek justice for the women and girls, including Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and many more who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence. Throughout the season, players will wear NIKE-branded warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front. Additionally, “Say Her Name” will adorn the back of the shirts. “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.
The League and the Players Association are committed to continuing this collaborative work at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Official Home of the WNBA 2020 Season.
Stay tuned for more updates and coverage of the WNBA/Atlanta Dream 2020 Season.