Shoutout to the female athletes who’ve been protesting this shit for AGES
An entire WNBA team took the knee and locked hands – a year ago
This weekend, protesting racial injustice and President Trump went sports mainstream. Every TV and newspaper carried the images: NFL players taking a stand by not standing for the anthem. Colin Kaepernick, everyone has said, is no longer a lonely martyr.
Except, he never was. Almost none of this weekend's coverage mentioned a group of athletes who earn much less than NFL starters, but who have been protesting this issue for more than a year.
The women of the WNBA have been out there for over a year, risking their careers to highlight racism and police brutality.
Last autumn, the entire Indiana Fever team linked arms and took a knee during a rendition of the anthem, a decision their coach, Stephanie White, praised on ESPN. "It’s bigger than basketball," she said. That gesture took place across the NFL this weekend.
And that wasn't the first time women of the WNBA took the risk of demonstrating publicly. Members of the Minnesota Lynx and the New York Liberty wore #BlackLivesMatter t-shirts at press conferences and even warm-ups. The move constituted a uniform violation and the resulting fine was only rescinded after pressure from other players.
They're still doing it, too. This week, the entire Los Angeles Sparks team stayed in their locker room during the national anthem while news coverage stayed on the NFL's Denver Broncos for blasting the song "Fuck Donald Trump" (my national anthem, to be honest) before their game.
A rookie athlete in the WNBA will be earning about $36,500 a year, while the league average – including the biggest stars – is about double that. Kaepernick was earning $11.9 million a year when he made his protest, well over 150 times more. Lebron James and Steph Curry, who have won praise for their anti-Trump remarks recently, both earn more than $30 million.
When the women of the WNBA took a knee, they didn't have progressive politicians and journalists tweeting their encouragement. And they couldn't rely on the world watching. You see, wall-to-wall coverage is a form of protection against risk. If you know everyone is tuning in and you know dozens of fellow players are doing the same across the nation, you don't have to worry about losing your job or ruining your future.
To be clear, any protest is good. Taking a knee, locking arms, sitting down, issuing statements: it all helps push a justice agenda. But while we praise Gregg Popovich, Colin Kaepernick, Marshawn Lynch, and Michael Thomas for their protests, let's do the same for the principled female athletes who do the same without the money, coverage, or career security.
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