WNBA Players & Family Are Frontline Soldiers In Fight Against Coronavirus, Social Injustice

The WNBA is entering uncharted waters for pro athletes as it attempts to successfully complete a 22-game season during a coronavirus pandemic in a state that is showing record cases of COVID-19 soaring. 

By the time that July 25th, noon game between Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart’s Seattle Storm and rookie sensation Sabrina Ionescu’s New York Liberty kicked off, total cases in the United States could exceed 3,500,000. 

Unprecedented Risk

Never before in the history of hoops have basketball players been asked to brave pandemic conditions, where some are guaranteed to contract the virus, in order to provide entertainment for the world and keep the affluent business owners profiting.  

So far, seven of 137 WNBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus. For some strange reason, the league is also allowing players to take their children with them to stay inside the bubble. Players can have a caretaker to help with daily duties.

WNBA and media superstar Candace Parker is one of those mothers, who will be braving the IMG Bubble and facing potential COVID-19 contraction with her 11-year-old daughter by her side every step of the way. 

The Los Angeles Sparks All-Star knows it’s a calculated risk to stay in the coronavirus hot spot, but Parker would not travel without her daughter. 

“We’re a package deal,” said Parker. “One GM in the NBA said this can be the greatest of ideas, going to the bubble, or it can be catastrophic.

“I don’t know if there’s an in between. Obviously, everybody going in would be taking a chance, but I’m hoping everything works out.”

Parker, who arrived with Lailaa for training camp at the IMG academy last week,  calls the positive tests “inevitable” and says it’s about “making sure it doesn’t spread.”

GOD Bless Mothers & Children 

It’s already extremely risky for the players, coaches and staff to stay in the Bradenton Bubble. What isn’t discussed much is the children of these players and the risk that is being taken by bringing them. It’s one of the many sacrifices these brave women of the WNBA are making in order to push the league forward in a time of global unrest.  

So the women are trying to parent, keep the American economy going, continue the momentum of the social justice and racial equality movement in this country and avoid catching COVID-19. It’s a juggling act that Anthony Gatto would have trouble mastering. 

We know it’s big business fueling this attempt at defying science. For the women of the WNBA, however, there are no max contracts or super deals as a cushion. In fact, the last collective bargaining agreement boosted the salaries of the top 8 players to just over $200,000. Chump change in the NBA.  

 Business: Elena Delle Donne Opt-Out Denied

The highest-paid player in the league is Elena Delle Donne, who makes $215,000. 

It’s not surprising that the league’s panel of physicians has denied the reigning WNBA MVP’s request to opt-out of the 2020 season because of medical concerns — a decision she said is at odds with the advice she received from her personal physician. 

It’s business. When borderline all-stars check out on the season for advocacy or health reasons, the league doesn’t have a problem with it. But when the LeBron James of the WNBA is riddled with injuries and might be at high risk for COVID-19 because of a past bout with Lyme disease, she gets shut down. No way the WNBA is playing its season without the league MVP and highest-seller of jerseys for three years and counting.

Real American Heroes

At the end of the day, these financial hurdles just magnify the honor and valor associated with the task that awaits the women and families of the WNBA. The hyperbolized nature of pro sports often leads us to compare a game and its players with soldiers actually going to war. Some military lifers have told me that they find the comparison minimizes the deep cost of death and destruction in an actual war. Comparing war to a game where players make millions is borderline insulting, but on the other hand it magnifies the reverence in which we hold these athletes. 

Moments like this are the reason why their voices and actions hold so much impact. Describing these women as “social justice warriors” and soldiers in a battle against several demons is no exaggeration.  

WNBA Women Brave Pandemic

This is a new day indeed. Since when does a professional athlete have to HOPE that they will survive a season without contracting a deadly virus that doesn’t have a vaccine yet? 

If you ever wondered about the oppressive power of money and the bravery of Black Americans in this country, then study what’s going on right now in the WNBA. 

These women don’t even make the millions that NBA players do, so the risk factor weighs more heavily against their families. In essence, they are considered frontline, essential workers. Even guinea pigs of sorts. No one can predict how many players will contract COVID-19 once the season begins. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. 

WNBA Players On Double Duty: Social Justice

Despite still being underpaid, underacknowledged and even attacked by WNBA owners against the Black Lives Matter platform, they continue to sacrifice for the advancement of women’s professional basketball. Making it an agenda to seek equity, social justice and diversity within their own league and beyond. 

“For a league that’s 80% women of color with zero African American coaches, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence,” Parker said. “I think we’re a league that does get out in the community and talks about social justice reform and speaks about and posts during Pride Month and Green Week. At the end of the day, we need to back it up with actions.”

In addition to dealing with the real threat of COVID-19, WNBA players will be emotionally immersed in several dedicated social justice initiatives. 

The spotlight will be focused on the league’s brightest stars as they bring women’s basketball back with an opening weekend dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the opening weekend, when all 12 teams will be in action, all aspects of the game and player outfitting will be designed to affirm Black Lives Matter and honor victims of police brutality and racial violence.

“As we build on the momentum for women’s sports and the WNBA from last season, we’re incredibly grateful to our broadcast partners who have shown a continued commitment to bringing the WNBA to fans across the country on their biggest platforms,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “This 2020 WNBA season will truly be one unlike any other, and we’re looking forward to using our collective platform to highlight the tremendous athletes in the WNBA as well as their advocacy for social change.”

WNBA Tip-Off 2020 presented by AT&T also will highlight the league’s new social justice platform, Throughout the season, players will wear warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back (That’s a reference to women of color who have died after alleged police actions,)

The Sparks recently launched the “Change Has No Offseason” campaign, which adds voter registration and immigration reform to the team’s existing efforts around mental health and police relations.

Parker narrates a two-minute video that features WNBA players on the court, demonstrators around the country in the streets and conversations with new league commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

The world is actually lucky to have athletes so dedicated to advancing causes that benefit all people and dealing with the backlash and consequences that come along with it. The women of the WNBA should not only be commended for their service and sacrifice but rewarded. 

They are taking several high risks at a very low financial return and personal gain. Respects.

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