The defining sporting images from 2020 involved athletes taking a stand, be it by taking the knee or sporting social justice messages. But four WNBA players opted out of the season to get involved with their communities and social justice causes.
Editor’s Note: It’s that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports’ all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost’s latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.
As the year trundled along, the defining images from the sports stadiums and arenas involved athletes getting involved in activism. Whether it was athletes like NBA players and footballers taking a stand by getting on one knee or athletes like Naomi Osaka making their voices heard by putting carefully chosen names on her face mask, this was the year of the athletes using their platforms for social justice.
However, some athletes — such as Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore, Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud and Atlanta Dreams players Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes — went beyond that and helped out by opting out of the WNBA season, which was held in a bio-secure bubble in Florida’s IMG Academy.
After much thought, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season. There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!
— Renee Montgomery (@ReneeMontgomery) June 18, 2020
Montgomery, a two-time WNBA champion, decided to forgo her 12th season to pursue a larger role in social justice reform. In 2020, she expanded the Renee Montgomery Foundation and started two new initiatives: Remember the 3rd program (using workshops and rallies to increase community involvement in local politics) and The Last Yard program (raising money to improve education in historically black colleges and universities).
“This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything that is going on right now,” said Hayes in an Instagram post. “Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment.”
Montgomery and Hayes both played for Dreams, co-owned by Senator Kelly Loeffler, who has made strong comments on WNBA’s association with Black Lives Matter movement.
Moore, on the other hand, opted out of the previous WNBA season as well to fight against criminal justice reform. The 30-year-old, a four-time champion and the 2014 MVP, used her absence from the WNBA to overturn the 50-year sentence of Jonathan Irons, who was convicted of breaking into a Missouri home and twice shooting a homeowner in 1998.
Moore, who was a part of two Olympic gold medal-winning US women’s teams, married Irons after his release earlier this year.
Maya Moore stepped away from basketball to focus on criminal justice reform.
Today, Jonathan Irons, who was serving a 50-year sentence for a conviction that was ultimately overturned, was released thanks to her efforts 🙌🏿
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 2, 2020
Cloud, meanwhile, also opted out of helping the Mystics mount a defence of their title.
“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career. But, I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season. There’s a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest being that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can’t matter (sic),” she wrote in an Instagram post announcing her decision.
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