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WNBA reveals COVID-19 test results and plans to spread Black Lives Matter message

Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike believes WNBA players can be a “powerful force connecting our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world” in the fight for equality.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

Games inch closer as the WNBA continues to juggle the threat of a global pandemic derailing its hope for a quarantined season amid a period of social unrest.

The same day teams began arriving in Florida in advance of the season, the league announced its initial coronavirus test results, with seven of 137 players testing positive, and released a statement detailing plans to dedicate the season to social justice.

The WNBA said 11 of its 12 teams arrived at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday, with the Indiana Fever delaying travel by at least five days because of an abundance of caution concerning the CDC’s close-contact self-quarantine requirements.

Training camps are expected to start after an isolation period with games beginning later this month. The league has not released a schedule for the 22-game season, which will be followed by the traditional playoff format.

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When games begin, they will draw attention to social justice during a weekend of competition dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, the league announced. Players will wear special jerseys displaying names of females who have been victims of police brutality and racial violence, including Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. Throughout the season, players will wear shirts reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name.”

More than two weeks after a noose was found hanging in a garage stall used by Bubba Wallace, Trump referred to the incident as a ‘HOAX’ in a tweet.

“As many WNBA players — past and present — have said and, more importantly, consistently demonstrated, the reason why you see us engaging and leading the charge when it comes to social advocacy is because it is in our DNA,” players union president and Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said in a statement. “With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world.”

The league and the union also are launching The Justice Movement, a platform to amplify players’ voices, and creating a social justice council. Sparks guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, whose 22-year-old cousin was fatally shot by a police officer in 2013, will be part of the group that also includes New York guard Layshia Clarendon, Chicago guard Sydney Colson, former league MVP Breanna Stewart, former No. 1 overall pick A’ja Wilson and Dallas rookie Satou Sabally.

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The committee will lead campaigns to address inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism in the United States through community conversations, virtual roundtables and player-produced podcasts.


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