The WNBA stood with major sporting leagues across the country postponing playoff games for several days last week. One Indiana Fever player said part of her role as a professional athlete is to advocate for social justice.
The WNBA delayed the games to let players protest after a White police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.
Natalie Achonwa plays center for the Indiana Fever. The team is competing in the playoffs and boycotted one of their games last week.
Achonwa said the police shooting of Blake and others hits especially close to home.
“Racism or discrimination, it doesn't pick and choose, doesn't matter that I'm a professional basketball player; doesn't matter that I'm a good person. It doesn't matter about any of that, that it sees the color of my skin and deems that I'm not worthy. And that's – that's the part that hurts,” said Achonwa. “But also the part that gives me the energy and the fight, to want to do more; to want to push on.”
During the time off the court, players held a candlelight vigil for Black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement and took time to recommit to the fight for change.
Achonwa said in a league that is made up predominantly of Black women, it’s important she and fellow players use their platforms to demand change.
“We take away the basketball, we don't get the mic,” she said. “And we don't get the opportunity to speak for women that don't have this chance that don't have the mic.”
Achonwa said it’s important to return to playing to keep being able to use the attention from being an athlete to advance issues including Black Lives Matter.
“If we sat out the rest of the season that would take away this platform, and this would take away the microphone from us and take away the opportunity from us to do the work that we've been doing in our communities and across the country,” said Achonwa.