The Sports World Should Be Paying Attention To WNBA’s Natasha Cloud’s Media Blackout

Natasha Cloud is the latest athlete taking on social injustice and gun violence.

Over the last few seasons, the women of the WNBA have become increasingly vocal about the social issues that affect their communities. In some areas, the safety of young people of color has been compromised by crime within the community and overzealous police forces sworn to protect the very people they oppress.

When pro athletes get involved in social issues every bit of help counts, but when the stars step up and make a social or political statement the effect is even greater.

Natasha Cloud, one of the WNBA’s rising stars promised a media “blackout” until Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and a D.C. Council member adequately respond to an episode of gun violence this week at Southeast elementary school.

In a message she posted to Instagram after visiting Hendley Elementary in Ward 8,  Cloud, who is among her team’s leaders in points and assists per game,  said a school event was canceled this week after a bullet broke a front window and it’s the third similar incident that she knows of since the Mystics moved to the new entertainment and sports arena in Southeast D.C. 

Cloud had been at the school to talk with students.

“Our kids can’t even feel safe to go to school right now,” she said on social media. “What are we doing? We’ve got to do better for our youth.”

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Cloud is among the more active WNBA players when it comes to meeting with the kids and people of the various WNBA communities, not just in D.C. but across the United States.

In February, she was among a contingent of former and current WNBA stars who visited a Brooklyn elementary school during recess in honor of “National Girls and Women In Sports Day”.

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So it was not surprising that she followed through on her promise to stage a media blackout to draw attention to gun control, gun violence and protecting the kids growing up in the middle of these urban war zones. She did not discuss basketball prior to or after Friday’s game.   

Athletes & Activism 

Cloud took a page out of Colin Kaepernick‘s book.  Her media boycott against rampant gun violence is a similar tactic to the one used by Kaepernick when he took a knee to bring awareness to police brutality and social injustice.

And more recently, USA Soccer star Megan Rapino has continued her defiance and disgust towards the philosophies and tactics of President Donald Trump by refusing to sing the anthem ahead of the US National Team’s  2019 Women’s World Cup opener against Thailand last Tuesday.

Back in 2016, Rapino made headlines for kneeling during the national anthem and becoming the first white athlete to stand with Kap.

In an interview with Yahoo Sports last month, the 33-year-old midfielder – who identifies as a lesbian – explained that her silence is a protest against the policies of President Donald Trump.

“I feel like it’s kind of defiance in and of itself to just be who I am and wear the jersey, and represent it,” she said.

“Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not.

“So it’s kind of a good ‘F you’ to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him. ..”

Rapino is the long-time girlfriend of WNBA legend and community activist Sue Bird, so the connection between the two sports and the bravery, passion, and philosophies of the women making these social stands are becoming more unified throughout the sports landscape. 

Make Them Feel Uncomfortable

Cloud gave one statement after the game, and no other players answered questions.

“It directly affected me yesterday,” Cloud said before the game. “Being in [the schoo], seeing the kids, hearing them talk about it like it’s just something that happens — this shouldn’t be something that happens. Our kids need to be in a safe environment when they’re going to learn. . . . If they can’t go to school, we’re setting them up for failure at a young age.

“I will only discuss this topic until it is fixed,” she said.

Cloud’s criticisms were aimed at D.C’s black mayor, who has served since 2015.  Black councilmember Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) was also a target of Cloud’s threat to use her “media privileges as a blackout” if she did not receive a response by Friday morning “with a solution or a sit-down for a solution.”

Bowser’s office addressed Cloud’s demands in a statement.

“Mayor Bowser went to the community on Thursday evening to meet with community leaders, their MPD Captain, and outreach staff to discuss their concerns and talk about recent incidents. That dialogue will continue as we work to end the senseless violence that has been fueled by the ­unfortunate presence of too many illegal guns.”

Cloud also met with her team and Mystics Coach-General Manager Mike Thibault on Friday morning to inform them of her plans for a media blackout.

Thibault is supportive and encourages his players to speak out on issues that are important to them.

“That was clear — that we’re not just going to make a statement and not do anything,” Thibault said. “We’re going to be involved with schools, we’re going to be involved with Ward 8, and we’re going to try to make a positive impact, whether it’s bringing kids to clinics, bringing kids to games, letting them interact with our players — because that’s our best platform to help.”

The Mystics have also expressed support for Cloud via Twitter.

Working Together Is The Way 

Cloud should be commended for her social activism and desire to help change the culture in some of the high-crime areas, where innocent kids often get caught up in gang crimes, random violence and lack of educational or financial resources.

White understands Cloud’s concerns but from the tone of his response, he doesn’t appreciate her pointing fingers and implying that DC’s political establishment is just allowing these things to happen. And it’s something that can’t be changed overnight with a social media threat.

“She’s asking me what I am going to do, and I am telling her that for 17 years I have been addressing the issue of violence of the community,” White said. “She has a good heart, but we need people involved, not just on social media. I have been on the front line doing the work.”

Violence in Washington D.C, inner-city has been a problem for decades in America, dating back to the heroin epidemic and drug explosion of the 80s and 90s.

Southeast D.C. has been a haven for violence and in order to clean up the area and make it better for kids, advocates and heroes like Cloud will have to collaborate with the mayor and black political leaders, acknowledge their efforts and work together on a daily basis to slowly and effectively change the culture.

It’s not something that can happen overnight, but when voices who have a platform use it to improve the lives of others, take an interest in the political process and take responsibility for the safety of the communities they frequent, it’s a win for everyone involved.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.