Activism always seemed deeper rooted in the WNBA than the NBA. For a variety of reasons, the women of the WNBA have been active in social justice initiatives, from race to LGBTQ issues to equal pay.
And now, one of the most outspoken activists plays for the New York Liberty. Layshia Clarendon was acquired by the Liberty after the WNBA Draft to be a veteran presence on a young roster (with SEVEN rookies) and back up to one of those rooks, the overall No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu. But she’s a lot more than that!
Last week, to commemorate Juneteenth, she and Garrett Temple were among the leaders on a Liberty-sponsored podcast “to discuss freedom, justice, equality, and the power of our vote.”
The topics included a broad panoply of issues: criminal justice reform, economic inequality, healthcare, social justice, women’s rights policies – and “how using influence can help mobilize and empower the disengaged to exercise their right to vote,” according The Grio.
“We [the WNBA] are the people who have been doing this work the whole time. …What’s really cool about our league is that it’s authentic to who we are,” Clarendon said. “Every player in our league has some type of passion that they want to speak out about, something that they care about and are doing in their community. … Our strength is in the numbers.”
“It is our obligation to be a voice for the voiceless,” Temple told the group, adding it’s time to organize not just at the federal level, but locally as well.
“The local elections are the ones that honestly mean the most. When you look back, how many of us can name the District Attorney in our city? The prosecutors carry so much weight based on what they believe. …These things matter so much,” said Temple.
Then, on Friday, Clarendon penned an article for Players Tribune on politics and social justice, entitled, “It’s Time to Think Bigger.”
Thinking BIG is really what we need at this moment.
Can we dare to imagine a world where racism doesn’t pervade everything? I have to, in order to have hope. Because if not, what else am I fighting for?
I believe in the possibility of change.
I believe we can dismantle these systems, to their very foundations, and build something new.
I believe we can have social accountability without police.
We can have an America that doesn’t thrive on the exploitation of its most vulnerable.
It’s time to think boldly about what a reimagined world can look like. Because we have the political power to change it in ways my generation has never seen before.
If it doesn’t scare you, you aren’t thinking big enough.
And it’s time to think bigger.
Clarendon in fact has become a go-to speaker on a number of issues, including the recently decided Supreme Court decision that prohibited job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.
The Liberty, particularly since Joe and Clara Wu Tsai became co-owners, have supported the activism. It’s Chief Operating Officer, Keia Clarke, has been front and center in recent discussions of social justice across the Internet. She signed the Nets statement following the murder of George Floyd as the Liberty’s leading executive.
“Ultimately our goal is to stretch far and wide,” Clarke told the Grio. “To have as many people listen, but really to understand that this is work that the Liberty franchise does on a day-to-day basis, whether we’re just playing the games, or whether we’re doing off core initiatives like this, it is working together for the same goal. …These women are elite athletes, but they care deeply about issues that affect their communities.”
Clara Wu Tsai has been particularly active herself, being a founder —and financier— of the REFORM Alliance, which is trying to reform the U.S. prison system, working with Meek Mill and other sports team owners.
Ionescu, in fact, was among the first of the WNBA’s players, to declare Black Lives Matter following Floyd’s killing...
Now, the Liberty and the 11 other WNBA teams will head off to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for the league’s own “bubble,” 107 miles southwest of where their NBA brothers will play. The schedule has yet to be set beyond a “late July” opener. And just like the NBA, expect the WNBA players, led by Clarendon among others, to use the platform to call for change.
- It’s Time to Think Bigger - Layshia Clarendon - Players Tribune
- NY Liberty Juneteenth panel discusses equality, power of voting - Corrine Dorsey - The Grio
- New Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins looks like perfect choice for unconventional times - Barbara Barker - Newsday