Prior to the first WNBA game of the season, members of the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty departed the floor ahead of the national anthem on Saturday.
Also before Saturday's season opener, one representative from each team — Breanna Stewart of the Storm and New York's Layshia Clarendon, both members of the newly formed WNBA Social Justice Council — remained on the floor to speak about Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old woman killed by plainclothes police officers in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment four months ago.
Taylor's death has been at the forefront of nationwide protests advocating for equal justice and racial equity, and the WNBA has dedicated the 2020 season to her memory. The season will also be played in honor of the "Say Her Name" campaign, which raises awareness for Black women who are victims of police violence.
"Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around her," Clarendon said. " … We will 'Say Her Name.' Sandra Bland. Atiana Jefferson. Dominique 'Rem'mie' Fells. And Breonna Taylor. We will be a voice for the voiceless."
“We will say her name.”
The @nyliberty and @seattlestorm participated in a powerful moment of recognition for Breonna Taylor ahead of Saturday’s game. pic.twitter.com/ZrRYWqV7nl
As the national anthem was played, the @nyliberty and @seattlestorm walked off the floor as part of the social justice initiative. pic.twitter.com/VihH5X3Yzh
Taylor's name will appear below each player's name on her jersey. The WNBA displayed her full name on the display boards surrounding the court. A moment of silence for 26 seconds preceded Saturday's game.
After the Storm defeated the Liberty 87-71, spoiling No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu's debut, Seattle guard Sue Bird said the spotlight will remain on social justice issues — even as the league starts its 22-game regular season in the "bubble" of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
"Right now, we have a platform, and that's what we want to bring attention to," Bird said.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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