The WNBA's three games scheduled for Wednesday night were postponed as part of the protest among professional sports teams regarding the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
"This isn't just about basketball. We aren't just basketball players," Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins told ESPN broadcaster Holly Rowe in a televised interview from the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida. "We're going to say what we need to say."
The WNBA decision followed the announcement that the NBA's three games Wednesday were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks did not take the floor for their game against the Orlando Magic. Three Major League Baseball games were also postponed, and five Major League Soccer games were called off.
"We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action," Dream forward Elizabeth Williams said in a statement that executive director Terri Jackson said expressed the WNBA players' union's point of view. "What we have seen over the last few months, and most recently with the brutal police shooting of Jacob Blake, is overwhelming. And while we hurt for Jacob and his community, we also have an opportunity to keep the focus on the issues and demand change.
"These moments are why it's important for our fans to stay focused, hear our voices, know our hearts and connect the dots from what we say to what we do."
Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police on Sunday. Blake was shot as he attempted to enter the driver's side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who is on site at IMG Academy, also spoke with Rowe after the announcement of the postponements.
"We absolutely support them," Engelbert said of the WNBA players. "We are running a very player-first agenda. We said that from the beginning. And that's why I was here to listen, to talk with them, maybe impart some of my knowledge from my experience and really help them think through strategically what this night meant to them and then where do they go from here."
Four of the WNBA teams -- the Mystics, Dream, Sparks and Lynx -- were already on site for their games and met for about an hour to make a decision on whether they would play. The Mystics, who wore T-shirts with simulated bullet holes on the back as a protest against the Blake shooting, decided they did not want to play, and the other teams then joined them in that decision. The players for those teams then met on court and kneeled in solidarity.
"At the start of the day, our intention was to play," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "As the day progressed, players on our team and others talked. The NBA did what they did. I think this was a decision that was hard for everybody to make.
"Part of our journey to come here was to keep the conversation alive and use our platform to talk about systemic racism and police violence against Black men and women. Our players felt like if we're not going to take the last step and make the final stand, when are we ever going to do it?"
The WNBA has made social justice the primary platform for its 2020 season, with players wearing Breonna Taylor's name on the backs of their jerseys. Taylor, a Louisville woman killed by police after a no-knock raid on her home in March, and other women who have been killed or wounded in police shootings have been a focus of the WNBA and the "Say Her Name" campaign, which seeks to raise awareness for them.
The WNBA is a little more than midway through a 22-game regular season and has played three games per day most days since July 25. WNBPA executive committee president Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks spoke with Rowe about what the players will discuss going forward regarding this season.
"My role in what I do as president is lay out the options," Ogwumike said, "and really make sure everyone understands the implications of the decisions we make. We're not just trying to make a statement today. We're trying to figure out what actionable items can come out of this. There's so much more we feel we can do to really create some serious change.
"Right now we're organizing to figure out how we can have a bubble meeting and how we can also meet with our NBPA brethren to really discuss what the call to action is after today."