The world of sport is no stranger to politics. And amid renewed calls for urgent action on gun violence in the United States, many athletes are raising the volume on their appeals for change.
Following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two of their teachers were fatally shot by a man armed with a semiautomatic rifle, many experts have taken to once again calling attention to the easy accessibility of such weapons and inadequate mental health resources as two of the contributing factors to this uniquely American form of violence.
As casualties from mass shootings continue to increase, so does the frustration amongst athletes whose pleas for political action have fallen on deaf ears.
Out WNBA guard Natasha Cloud is one of the most outspoken of those athletes, and during her seven years with the Washington Mystics has developed a clear-eyed voice on the issue on gun violence in her adopted home of D.C.
From organizing a media blackout in the wake of the 2019 shootings at Hendley Elementary School to opting out of the 2020 WNBA season to work on her activism in the community outside of the W, Cloud views these urgent issues as so much bigger than basketball. Now in 2022, she has once again taken the lead on a Mystics media blackout forcing attention away from the spectacle on the court.
“We have an issue in this country, not only white supremacy, [but] we also have a gun violence issue,” Cloud said in a statement to the media on Tuesday, transcribed by Jenn Hatfield in The Next. “And this is us using our platform, right? This game doesn’t matter. [What matters is] the 18 lives — and the number is going up by the minute — the 18 lives that were lost today from senseless gun violence in Texas at an elementary school. We’re talking about our kids not being safe to go to school. And our government is still not implementing sensible gun laws. This isn’t about taking people’s rights away from bearing arms. This is about putting sensible gun laws in so this doesn’t happen again.
“We cannot continue to make the same mistakes. We cannot continue to allow these things to happen in our country and nothing is being done with it for money, for profit. So I’m calling on everyone: Please put this out, post it, write to your not only local representatives but your federal representatives and tell them you are tired. Tell them that we are tired of lives being lost in this country for senseless shit. It is time to implement gun laws and stop caring about profit and money over people and lives.”
Later in the week, Cloud again used her time to spur legislative action on this issue, and urged other athletes in the NHL and MLB to make use of their considerable platforms.
“Being in D.C., we’re in the most powerful city in the world. We’re in spitting distance of the Capitol, of all these representatives who need to do their jobs, so a lot falls on our shoulders here to be the voice of the voiceless,” Cloud said Thursday. “I would like the Caps to step up. I would like other sports teams to step up. I would like the Nationals to step up. It’s time. It’s time that our white counterparts also step up. It’s not just us Black athletes that need to step up and use our voices. It’s also our white counterparts, our white male counterparts, since your voices are heard, mostly.”
Cloud’s call was answered by Nationals player Sean Doolittle, who spoke to the Washington Post in an emotional account of how the issue has been impacting him and the role that athletes can play in creating real change.
“I think it’s important to say that Natasha was right. I think she is a really important leader in the D.C. community, and whenever she talks I listen. I think she was right to essentially call for backup, especially here in D.C., where Congress is in our backyard. We might not have representation ourselves as D.C. residents, but maybe we can force some change and at least some conversations.”
Cloud also affirmed on Thursday’s media availability that she intends to pursue her political work further when she retires from basketball, echoing Doolittle’s frustration at the lack of decision-making power on the federal level.
“It’s at a point now where, after my career, I will go into politics, ‘cause I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it being a political game. These are people’s lives.”
I am sick and I am tired.— Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) May 25, 2022
I am tired of thoughts and prayers.
I am tired of representation that puts profit and power before safety and lives.
I am tired of the corruption.
I am tired of the hate and racism.
I am tired of representation turning a blind eye. pic.twitter.com/Z9PCnXw2p6
National Gun Violence Awareness Day takes place on June 4, with Wear Orange Weekend happening June 3-5. This year, the Washington Mystics will be supporting Everytown for Gun Safety at their home game on Friday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Click here for more details and resources, and consider showing your support wearing orange to a WNBA game near you this weekend.