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WNBA’s Natasha Cloud: ‘Your silence is a knee on my neck.’

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In a powerful essay, Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud calls out athletes who remain neutral in the face of racism, especially as protests continue across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Five
Natasha Cloud #9 of Washington Mystics handles the ball against the Connecticut Sun during Game Five of the 2019 WNBA Finals on October 10, 2019 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud wrote an essay for The Players’ Tribune that was going to be about the upcoming abridged WNBA season. But before she could finish, Cloud realized, as we journalists often do, that events demand we abandon plans, or postpone them, when the moment calls for something far more important.

“As a black person in America, there’s only one thing that could possibly BE on my mind.

And that’s fearing for my life.”

Cloud, who is engaged to pro softball player Aleshia Ocasio since last July, shared her immense fear, frustration and justifiable anger over the latest example of racism in America. She wrote how the year 2020, a time that in her youth sounded as futuristic and as hopeful as the era of “Star Trek,” was instead a year in which an unarmed black man would be killed by the knee of “a white police officer, by someone whose job it was to serve and protect him, for almost nine minutes in broad daylight — nine minutes in broad daylight — even after he had become unresponsive.”

And she did not focus solely on the murder of George Floyd. Cloud aims her ire at not just the criminal justice system, or the police. But at those of us who did not grow up as “a black kid in America.” All of us who remain silent, or “neutral.”

“You start to notice how many forces there are in place to make sure that 2020 isn’t really all that much different from 2010. Or 2000. Or 1990. Or 1920. You start to understand how the systems of power in this country, they’re not built to create possibility or opportunity for black people — they’re built to lock them out.

“America’s systems of power exist to lock in the white status quo.”

Cloud’s point is that white supremacy flourishes in these United States without need for white hoods or Nazi salutes or tiki-torch brandishing mobs of white people.

“All they have to do is be silent,” she wrote.

Protesters Demonstrate In D.C. Against Death Of George Floyd By Police Officer In Minneapolis
Police hold a perimeter near the White House as demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd in the morning hours on May 31, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Cloud believes racist cops and other “bad apples,” as they are so often called, will be rooted out. “Relatively speaking, that one’s easy,” she said in her essay. What’s not easy, she offered, is to reach those who have always supported them, even today, by not speaking out against them.

“The millions of people who are helping to protect those racist cops, and who are helping to insulate those in power, by staying ‘neutral.’ That right there is what’s exhausting to me. It’s all the people who think that — in 2020!! — they can still somehow just politely opt out of this shit.

“And those are the people who I wanted to write this for.”

Just as she would on the hardwood, Cloud uses her words as she would her body to block the net from the opposition. She acknowledges that she is using her platform as a WNBA star to send a message to those who prefer to be “neutral,” and those who see “both sides.”

“It’s to tell them we’re changing up the definitions of some of these words they’ve been hiding behind.

“It’s to tell them that ‘seeing both sides’ means having blood on their hands – and ‘opting out’ means leaving innocent people to die.

“It’s to tell them that neutrality about black lives might as well be murder.

“It’s to tell them that their silence is the knee on George Floyd’s neck.”

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Five
Elena Delle Donne #11 of the Washington Mystics celebrates with Natasha Cloud #9 after winning the 2019 WNBA Championship against the Connecticut Sun at St Elizabeths East Entertainment & Sports Arena on October 10, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

She cheered her teammate WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne for sharing a Nike video that asks everyone to be part of the change, to not sit back and do nothing in the face of racism.

This video has been viewed more than 337K times since it debuted Friday, and liked more than 11K times. You can also see and share the video on YouTube, by clicking here.

In conclusion, Cloud called out her fellow athletes who remain silent.

“Athletes, if you’re reading this….. know that we see you. I’ll repeat that: WE SEE YOU. I love y’all — and like I said, I’m so proud to be one of y’all. But you’re being judged right now the same as everyone else — and if you’re silent, you are part of the problem.

“If you’re silent, I don’t fuck with you, period.

“Because I’m just out here trying to stay alive.

“And your knee is on my neck.”

There’s more. Click here to read Natasha Cloud’s full essay at The Players’ Tribune.