As has been pointed out numerous times, the WNBA was way ahead of all major sports leagues when it came to protesting against systemic racism and trumpeting the cause of social justice.
Even though one of the league’s most prominent voices isn’t playing this season in order to concentrate on the fight for societal change, Natasha Cloud took notice of yesterday’s league-wide protest against systemic racism and celebrated her teammates for their activism.
As part of their participation in the wildcat strike throughout pro sports, the Washington Mystics took the court at the WNBA bubble on Wednesday in T-shirts that spelled out the name of Jacob Blake. These shirts also featured seven holes on the back to signify where Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha police.
When Cloud saw what her teammates had become part of, she took to Instagram to voice her support and to issue another call to recognize the humanity inherent in Black lives:
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As athletes whether we like it or not we inherit this responsibility to use our platforms and be a voice for the voiceless. Especially when the leadership in this country isn’t doing it for us. This team is special. Our family is special. Proud of y’all for stepping up and standing your ground. When we take those jerseys off WE ARE BLACK and because of that we are not valued and our lives are constantly threatened. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You don’t get to sit and watch sports and ignore what’s happening in this country. You don’t get to be entertained by black men and women on the court/field, and then NOT care what happens to us and our families off those surfaces. HEAR US, SEE US, FEEL US WHEN WE SAY WE ARE TIRED.
As Cloud made abundantly clear, it’s no longer an option to sit back and watch Black athletes entertain us without working to change the system that continuously inflicts trauma on them and their communities.
In a year of social upheaval, Cloud has been a needed voice advocating for racial justice. She became a national figure in May by responding to George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed by writing the moving essay “Your Silence Is a Knee on My Neck” for The Players’ Tribune.
After her essay went viral, Cloud signed a new shoe deal with Converse that promised to amplify her social justice activism, signifying to her fellow athletes that speaking their minds on current events would not cost them endorsement opportunities. Later, Cloud led the chorus of WNBA voices calling for the ouster of Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler after the U.S. Senator from Georgia’s repeated attacks against Black Lives Matter.
It’s been a uniquely impressive year for Natasha Cloud. Even though she hasn’t played a minute of basketball this season, she’s had one of the biggest impacts of any athlete in the country. As in the case of legendary athlete/activists from Jackie Robinson to Arthur Ashe to Henry Aaron, Cloud has demonstrated that what she stands for off the court is every bit as important as her skills playing a game.
In this way, she’s emblematic of how the WNBA continues to lead the way for everyone.