Activism in the WNBA
Three WNBA players talk about their roles in social justice initiatives

Activism in the WNBA
Three WNBA players talk about their roles in social justice initiatives

Activism in the WNBA
Three WNBA players talk about their roles in social justice initiatives

Whitney Bronson, Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator

How Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are using their platforms to create conversations around injustice and equality.

Activism has been top of mind for sports leagues across America in 2020 — but this is nothing new for the WNBA. Since 2016, when Minnesota Lynx players wore black t-shirts acknowledging the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, players and teams have been very vocal in their support for social justice programs.

Many players have undertaken specific causes while also focusing on the league-wide initiative dedicated to voting rights. Three of those players, Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are all making an impact in their own special way and refusing to back down until their voices are heard.

How Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are using their platforms to create conversations around injustice and equality.

Activism has been top of mind for sports leagues across America in 2020 — but this is nothing new for the WNBA. Since 2016, when Minnesota Lynx players wore black t-shirts acknowledging the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, players and teams have been very vocal in their support for social justice programs.

Many players have undertaken specific causes while also focusing on the league-wide initiative dedicated to voting rights. Three of those players, Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are all making an impact in their own special way and refusing to back down until their voices are heard.

How Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are using their platforms to create conversations around injustice and equality.

Activism has been top of mind for sports leagues across America in 2020 — but this is nothing new for the WNBA. Since 2016, when Minnesota Lynx players wore black t-shirts acknowledging the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, players and teams have been very vocal in their support for social justice programs.

Many players have undertaken specific causes while also focusing on the league-wide initiative dedicated to voting rights. Three of those players, Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams and Gabby Williams are all making an impact in their own special way and refusing to back down until their voices are heard.

Nneka Ogwumike

Nneka Ogwumike

Nneka Ogwumike

As a Black woman, an athlete and a citizen, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike feels she has a responsibility to use her platform to help her community.

“As athletes we represent so many different communities," Nneka says. "It's imperative for us to bring awareness and education back home, back to our markets.”

Nneka’s parents raised her on community values, encouraging her to participate in extracurricular activities like basketball and student council. Nneka didn’t realize that those experiences were shaping her to one day become the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. Today, Nneka embraces the role of helping others, powerfully representing a league full of players determined to make a difference in the world by speaking up against injustice.

As a Black woman, an athlete and a citizen, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike feels she has a responsibility to use her platform to help her community.

“As athletes we represent so many different communities," Nneka says. "It's imperative for us to bring awareness and education back home, back to our markets.”

Nneka’s parents raised her on community values, encouraging her to participate in extracurricular activities like basketball and student council. Nneka didn’t realize that those experiences were shaping her to one day become the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. Today, Nneka embraces the role of helping others, powerfully representing a league full of players determined to make a difference in the world by speaking up against injustice.

As a Black woman, an athlete and a citizen, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike feels she has a responsibility to use her platform to help her community.

“As athletes we represent so many different communities," Nneka says. "It's imperative for us to bring awareness and education back home, back to our markets.”

Nneka’s parents raised her on community values, encouraging her to participate in extracurricular activities like basketball and student council. Nneka didn’t realize that those experiences were shaping her to one day become the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. Today, Nneka embraces the role of helping others, powerfully representing a league full of players determined to make a difference in the world by speaking up against injustice.

“Sometimes you just have to take a moment for people to realize, ‘Oh, based on what’s going on in the world, these women have really been about this,’” says Nneka. “But we don’t do it for the credibility. We do it for the change.”

Social injustice against Black and Brown people, pay inequity and voting rights are just some of the issues players are focusing on in 2020. The streak of police killings had a heavy impact on the Los Angeles Sparks forward and the rest of the league, driving them to take action.

“It’s a delicate situation because you want everyone to receive justice, and in a lot of ways, George Floyd hasn’t received justice; Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t received justice,” says Nneka. “But then you look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.”

“Sometimes you just have to take a moment for people to realize, ‘Oh, based on what’s going on in the world, these women have really been about this,’” says Nneka. “But we don’t do it for the credibility. We do it for the change.”

Social injustice against Black and Brown people, pay inequity and voting rights are just some of the issues players are focusing on in 2020. The streak of police killings had a heavy impact on the Los Angeles Sparks forward and the rest of the league, driving them to take action.

“It’s a delicate situation because you want everyone to receive justice, and in a lot of ways, George Floyd hasn’t received justice; Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t received justice,” says Nneka. “But then you look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.”

“Sometimes you just have to take a moment for people to realize, ‘Oh, based on what’s going on in the world, these women have really been about this,’” says Nneka. “But we don’t do it for the credibility. We do it for the change.”

Social injustice against Black and Brown people, pay inequity and voting rights are just some of the issues players are focusing on in 2020. The streak of police killings had a heavy impact on the Los Angeles Sparks forward and the rest of the league, driving them to take action.

“It’s a delicate situation because you want everyone to receive justice, and in a lot of ways, George Floyd hasn’t received justice; Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t received justice,” says Nneka. “But then you look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.”

You look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.Nneka Ogwumike

You look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.Nneka Ogwumike

You look at Breonna Taylor and nothing has been done at all. And that is the metaphor to the value of Black women in this country.Nneka Ogwumike

As a person with a voice and a platform, Nneka knows she has power and influence to help others understand their value and let them know that they deserve rights no matter what they look like.

As a person with a voice and a platform, Nneka knows she has power and influence to help others understand their value and let them know that they deserve rights no matter what they look like.

As a person with a voice and a platform, Nneka knows she has power and influence to help others understand their value and let them know that they deserve rights no matter what they look like.

I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.Nneka Ogwumike

I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.Nneka Ogwumike

I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.Nneka Ogwumike

Whether it’s convincing someone that their vote matters or researching how she can circulate her money in the Black community, Nneka's hope is for people to commit to helping create sustainable change. She knows change doesn't happen overnight, but being a voice for the voiceless and part of an innovative league is more than she could ever ask for.

“I’m just really grateful to be in a position to have a voice for the collective, for my communities, and just finding my place hopefully on the right side of history. I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.”

Whether it’s convincing someone that their vote matters or researching how she can circulate her money in the Black community, Nneka's hope is for people to commit to helping create sustainable change. She knows change doesn't happen overnight, but being a voice for the voiceless and part of an innovative league is more than she could ever ask for.

“I’m just really grateful to be in a position to have a voice for the collective, for my communities, and just finding my place hopefully on the right side of history. I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.”

Whether it’s convincing someone that their vote matters or researching how she can circulate her money in the Black community, Nneka's hope is for people to commit to helping create sustainable change. She knows change doesn't happen overnight, but being a voice for the voiceless and part of an innovative league is more than she could ever ask for.

“I’m just really grateful to be in a position to have a voice for the collective, for my communities, and just finding my place hopefully on the right side of history. I hope that the legacy of that is that there was change that lasted and that people know that the WNBA had a lot to do with it.”

Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth Williams

On August 23, 2020, Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin police, which sparked outcry and protests across America and professional sports leagues. NBA players decided to not play on August 26 to make a statement against police brutality in the United States.

WNBA players also refused to play the three games that were scheduled that same day, and Atlanta Dream Forward Elizabeth Williams was tasked with reading the player statement to the world.

“I think that what was going through my mind was, 'what I’m reading is true, what I’m reading is powerful and whatever we’ve done or are going to do, we’re doing it together,'” Elizabeth says. "I think that’s been the most powerful part of our part in the social justice movement as WNBA players.” After seeing the impact of her teammates and fellow athletes refusing to play, Elizabeth knew the WNBA was playing a crucial part in bringing awareness to social injustice.

Elizabeth is finding her voice in activism and taking a larger role in social justice initiatives. After recently joining a collective of athletes and entertainers fighting against voter suppression, Elizabeth has been focusing on policy changes that help Black and Brown communities.

“We’re getting into the nitty gritty of policy changes and health care and all those things are a reflection of a society that doesn’t treat people equally," Elizabeth says. "We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated. That’s the greatest goal out of this.”

On August 23, 2020, Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin police, which sparked outcry and protests across America and professional sports leagues. NBA players decided to not play on August 26 to make a statement against police brutality in the United States.

WNBA players also refused to play the three games that were scheduled that same day, and Atlanta Dream Forward Elizabeth Williams was tasked with reading the player statement to the world.

“I think that what was going through my mind was, 'what I’m reading is true, what I’m reading is powerful and whatever we’ve done or are going to do, we’re doing it together,'” Elizabeth says. "I think that’s been the most powerful part of our part in the social justice movement as WNBA players.” After seeing the impact of her teammates and fellow athletes refusing to play, Elizabeth knew the WNBA was playing a crucial part in bringing awareness to social injustice.

Elizabeth is finding her voice in activism and taking a larger role in social justice initiatives. After recently joining a collective of athletes and entertainers fighting against voter suppression, Elizabeth has been focusing on policy changes that help Black and Brown communities.

“We’re getting into the nitty gritty of policy changes and health care and all those things are a reflection of a society that doesn’t treat people equally," Elizabeth says. "We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated. That’s the greatest goal out of this.”

On August 23, 2020, Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin police, which sparked outcry and protests across America and professional sports leagues. NBA players decided to not play on August 26 to make a statement against police brutality in the United States.

WNBA players also refused to play the three games that were scheduled that same day, and Atlanta Dream Forward Elizabeth Williams was tasked with reading the player statement to the world.

“I think that what was going through my mind was, 'what I’m reading is true, what I’m reading is powerful and whatever we’ve done or are going to do, we’re doing it together,'” Elizabeth says. "I think that’s been the most powerful part of our part in the social justice movement as WNBA players.” After seeing the impact of her teammates and fellow athletes refusing to play, Elizabeth knew the WNBA was playing a crucial part in bringing awareness to social injustice.

Elizabeth is finding her voice in activism and taking a larger role in social justice initiatives. After recently joining a collective of athletes and entertainers fighting against voter suppression, Elizabeth has been focusing on policy changes that help Black and Brown communities.

“We’re getting into the nitty gritty of policy changes and health care and all those things are a reflection of a society that doesn’t treat people equally," Elizabeth says. "We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated. That’s the greatest goal out of this.”

We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated.Elizabeth Williams

We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated.Elizabeth Williams

We want society as a whole to understand that our Blackness exists, and it shouldn't take away from our humanity and how we're treated.Elizabeth Williams

In having conversations with players who want to take action, mayors of cities with large Black populations and many more, Elizabeth feels the WNBA athlete’s unified messages amplifies the voices of Black women everywhere and makes a powerful statement.

“Seeing how these women, even in death, were treated so unfairly seems like a systemic issue and we’re doing all we can to say her name and to humanize these victims while reminding people that this problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.”

In having conversations with players who want to take action, mayors of cities with large Black populations and many more, Elizabeth feels the WNBA athlete’s unified messages amplifies the voices of Black women everywhere and makes a powerful statement.

“Seeing how these women, even in death, were treated so unfairly seems like a systemic issue and we’re doing all we can to say her name and to humanize these victims while reminding people that this problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.”

In having conversations with players who want to take action, mayors of cities with large Black populations and many more, Elizabeth feels the WNBA athlete’s unified messages amplifies the voices of Black women everywhere and makes a powerful statement.

“Seeing how these women, even in death, were treated so unfairly seems like a systemic issue and we’re doing all we can to say her name and to humanize these victims while reminding people that this problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.”

This problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.Elizabeth Williams

This problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.Elizabeth Williams

This problem doesn’t just happen to men. It happens to women too and we really need to recognize that.Elizabeth Williams

She hopes to influence younger generations to realize how powerful their voices are. She wants to be remembered as someone who helped make a better change for the future.

“I thought it was important to be kind, to love and to remind people that the best way for society and this world to function is with good people loving and caring for each other," Elizabeth says. "We want our brothers, sisters and future kids to worry less.

She hopes to influence younger generations to realize how powerful their voices are. She wants to be remembered as someone who helped make a better change for the future.

“I thought it was important to be kind, to love and to remind people that the best way for society and this world to function is with good people loving and caring for each other," Elizabeth says. "We want our brothers, sisters and future kids to worry less.

She hopes to influence younger generations to realize how powerful their voices are. She wants to be remembered as someone who helped make a better change for the future.

“I thought it was important to be kind, to love and to remind people that the best way for society and this world to function is with good people loving and caring for each other," Elizabeth says. "We want our brothers, sisters and future kids to worry less.

Gabby Williams

Gabby Williams

Gabby Williams

Growing up with family in Oakland gave Chicago Sky forward Gabby Williams first-hand experience with gentrification. Watching her family struggle to keep housing and run a small print shop had a major effect on her. The ills of gentrification and housing discrimination have been a major topic of discussion in the Oakland area, but it seems as though each time Gabby visits her family, the city looks more and more different.

“We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing. Businesses own empty houses when there’s people living on the street. People are praising gentrification when it’s really hurting most of the population there.”

Growing up with family in Oakland gave Chicago Sky forward Gabby Williams first-hand experience with gentrification. Watching her family struggle to keep housing and run a small print shop had a major effect on her. The ills of gentrification and housing discrimination have been a major topic of discussion in the Oakland area, but it seems as though each time Gabby visits her family, the city looks more and more different.

“We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing. Businesses own empty houses when there’s people living on the street. People are praising gentrification when it’s really hurting most of the population there.”

Growing up with family in Oakland gave Chicago Sky forward Gabby Williams first-hand experience with gentrification. Watching her family struggle to keep housing and run a small print shop had a major effect on her. The ills of gentrification and housing discrimination have been a major topic of discussion in the Oakland area, but it seems as though each time Gabby visits her family, the city looks more and more different.

“We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing. Businesses own empty houses when there’s people living on the street. People are praising gentrification when it’s really hurting most of the population there.”

We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing.Gabby WIlliams

We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing.Gabby WIlliams

We’re getting better buildings, but no one ever talks about the homeless population. No one ever talked about people getting kicked out of Section 8 housing.Gabby WIlliams

After being drafted by the Chicago Sky, Gabby noticed similar issues in the city of Chicago and began researching the community to learn more about it. She joined several local organizations focused on marginalized communities and putting an end to the cash bail system.

After being drafted by the Chicago Sky, Gabby noticed similar issues in the city of Chicago and began researching the community to learn more about it. She joined several local organizations focused on marginalized communities and putting an end to the cash bail system.

After being drafted by the Chicago Sky, Gabby noticed similar issues in the city of Chicago and began researching the community to learn more about it. She joined several local organizations focused on marginalized communities and putting an end to the cash bail system.

Gabby also helped create an initiative called “Sky Takes Action” where the Chicago Sky players donate money to five organizations in the Chicago community. The amount is based on how many points they score and whether they win or lose. The initiative also challenges the fans to match the team’s donation, with the owners pledging to match the donations as well.

“I think the goal is to educate people on what they can do, whether it be donating money, donating time, educating themselves, whatever it may be," Gabby says. "I think this is a time where people are really desperate to do something and they don’t know what or how.”

Gabby also helped create an initiative called “Sky Takes Action” where the Chicago Sky players donate money to five organizations in the Chicago community. The amount is based on how many points they score and whether they win or lose. The initiative also challenges the fans to match the team’s donation, with the owners pledging to match the donations as well.

“I think the goal is to educate people on what they can do, whether it be donating money, donating time, educating themselves, whatever it may be," Gabby says. "I think this is a time where people are really desperate to do something and they don’t know what or how.”

Gabby also helped create an initiative called “Sky Takes Action” where the Chicago Sky players donate money to five organizations in the Chicago community. The amount is based on how many points they score and whether they win or lose. The initiative also challenges the fans to match the team’s donation, with the owners pledging to match the donations as well.

“I think the goal is to educate people on what they can do, whether it be donating money, donating time, educating themselves, whatever it may be," Gabby says. "I think this is a time where people are really desperate to do something and they don’t know what or how.”

We are the core of this. Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been.Gabby WIlliams

We are the core of this. Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been.Gabby WIlliams

We are the core of this. Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been.Gabby WIlliams

Gabby stays motivated by remembering what she is fighting for and that there are young Black girls who turn on the TV and see her being vocal and involved. She knows her place in the present, and also the long legacy of Black women in activism.

“We are the core of this," Gabby says. "Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been."

Gabby stays motivated by remembering what she is fighting for and that there are young Black girls who turn on the TV and see her being vocal and involved. She knows her place in the present, and also the long legacy of Black women in activism.

“We are the core of this," Gabby says. "Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been."

Gabby stays motivated by remembering what she is fighting for and that there are young Black girls who turn on the TV and see her being vocal and involved. She knows her place in the present, and also the long legacy of Black women in activism.

“We are the core of this," Gabby says. "Black women are the backbone to every activist movement that there’s been."

The Fight Continues

The Fight Continues

The Fight Continues

People often underestimate the power of a Black female athlete. On top of performing at the highest level, they also find the courage and willpower to fight for their communities, putting their mental and physical health on the line.

"We’re not supposed to cry about it, we’re supposed to keep it together no matter how hard we’re hurting," says Gabby.

It's exhausting, tireless work, and sometimes they have to remind themselves to take a moment to heal. But Nneka, Gabby and Elizabeth will continue fighting for voiceless, underrepresented and marginalized communities everywhere.

They spoke up about a change and are working to make it happen. Now they're encouraging us to do something about it too.

People often underestimate the power of a Black female athlete. On top of performing at the highest level, they also find the courage and willpower to fight for their communities, putting their mental and physical health on the line.

"We’re not supposed to cry about it, we’re supposed to keep it together no matter how hard we’re hurting," says Gabby.

It's exhausting, tireless work, and sometimes they have to remind themselves to take a moment to heal. But Nneka, Gabby and Elizabeth will continue fighting for voiceless, underrepresented and marginalized communities everywhere.

They spoke up about a change and are working to make it happen. Now they're encouraging us to do something about it too.

People often underestimate the power of a Black female athlete. On top of performing at the highest level, they also find the courage and willpower to fight for their communities, putting their mental and physical health on the line.

"We’re not supposed to cry about it, we’re supposed to keep it together no matter how hard we’re hurting," says Gabby.

It's exhausting, tireless work, and sometimes they have to remind themselves to take a moment to heal. But Nneka, Gabby and Elizabeth will continue fighting for voiceless, underrepresented and marginalized communities everywhere.

They spoke up about a change and are working to make it happen. Now they're encouraging us to do something about it too.

From interviews with WNBA superstars, to conversations with world championship track athletes, Beats Black Future Creator Whitney Bronson has had quite the ride with Beats. Learn more about her time in the program below.

From interviews with WNBA superstars, to conversations with world championship track athletes, Beats Black Future Creator Whitney Bronson has had quite the ride with Beats. Learn more about her time in the program below.

From interviews with WNBA superstars, to conversations with world championship track athletes, Beats Black Future Creator Whitney Bronson has had quite the ride with Beats. Learn more about her time in the program below.

Photo Credits: Nneka in sweatshirt- Sweatshirt by Phenomenal. Gabby talking to the kids- Courtesy of Chicago Sky - Sofi Dumont.

Photo Credits: Nneka in sweatshirt- Sweatshirt by Phenomenal. Gabby talking to the kids- Courtesy of Chicago Sky - Sofi Dumont.

Photo Credits: Nneka in sweatshirt- Sweatshirt by Phenomenal. Gabby talking to the kids- Courtesy of Chicago Sky - Sofi Dumont.