Right from the start, the WNBA said this season, which is unlike any previous WNBA season, would be dedicated to social justice. Last week, the players decided to not take the court for two days in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was not a boycott, said New York Liberty rookie forward Jocelyn Willoughby.
“What we did was a demonstration of solidarity for what’s going on in the world and to take a moment for self-care and to reflect on everything that’s happening and how do we connect when we’re isolated in this bubble?” said Willoughby. “Also, to strategize and mobilize and refocus on the purpose of this season.”
The league was supportive of the players’ actions and rescheduled the games. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert also announced the launch of the WNBA Justice Movement and convened the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council to focus on the system and policy issues the league has been highlighting through the #SayHerName campaign.
Unfortunately, the game the Liberty skipped was to be the team’s fourth annual UNITY Day game, which was to be devoted to telling Breonna Taylor’s story. The team announced the game would be rescheduled. A press release noted, “The New York Liberty organization stand in solidarity with our players.”
The Liberty returned to the court on Saturday with an 80–63 loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Rookie guard Paris Kea led the Liberty offense with 14 points. Kiah Stokes contributed 12 points and nine rebounds and Amanda Zahui B pulled down 21 rebounds.
After the game Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins said he was pleased with how the players fought and executed through three quarters—winning the third quarter.
“A few things got away from us in the fourth,” said Hopkins. “We weren’t confident enough in finding those shots…As they get used to being comfortable and being confident in themselves…at least we will take the shots.”
Hopkins said Kea continues to be a good spark for the Liberty—in games, in practice and off the court. “She’s a really positive person,” said Hopkins. “She’s somebody who earned trust from all of us really quickly. It’s hard to take our starters off the floor, but it’s exciting when you have somebody you trust to put in there.”
The Liberty takes on the Atlanta Dream tonight and the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday. Regular season play concludes on September 12.