WNBA teams and the league’s players have always been known for their community outreach. Last week, the New York Liberty stepped it up with all the players, coaches and management participating in a large-scale community initiative. The players were matched with organizations or causes about which they are passionate.
“This year, we’re talking about showing up for New York, and we want to show up in the community in a bold way,” said Swin Cash, Liberty director of franchise development. “It’s not a one-time thing. We’re going to stay connected with the organizations. … It’s authentic to who we are as a team and organization.”
Players Amanda Zahui B and Shavonte Zellous and assistant coach Katie Smith went to the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, a community center for LGBT youth, some of whom are homeless. It provides food, shelter and supportive services. They got a tour, met volunteers and did a lively and honest Q&A with some of the young people served by the center.
“The fact that they took the time to come out and show love to the community feels amazing,” said Jodi Humphrey, a former basketball player and Liberty season ticket holder who previously utilized the center’s services. “This feels like a dream because I used to watch Katie Smith on TV.”
“[I want] to be inspirational and give motivation to them to continue on with life no matter what anybody says,” said Zellous. “We’re touching the community. The youth sometimes feel fearful or scared to just live their lives. Coming here for me really means a lot.”
“We want to do more,” said Zahui B. “People sometimes don’t have an opportunity [like that] where they can be around other people that let them be themselves. It inspired us.”
In Texas, Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins paid homage to her roots last week when she was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame. Diggins started playing hoops and honed her skills at a Boys & Girls Club near her home in Indiana.
“The club provided a safe haven for me to nurture my love of basketball,” said Diggins. “Above that, the Boys & Girls Club was very important to not just develop my love of sports but also teach me about basic values like teamwork, responsibility and sharing.”