The WNBA on Monday said it will dedicate its 2020 season to social justice. The league will kick off the season later this month with teams wearing "special uniforms" to draw attention to women and girls who were killed in alleged acts of police brutality or racial violence.
Teams will don the uniforms in an effort to "seek justice" for Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen, among others, during a weekend of competition to start off the season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the league said in a statement.
Players will wear warm-up shirts with "Black Lives Matter" written on the front and "Say Her Name" on the back. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" will also be "prominently displayed" on the courts.
Last month, Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry, a five-time All-Star, introduced the idea for players to wear the names on their jerseys. "Say their names on our jerseys," she tweeted at the time, alongside a photo of Taylor's name on an Aces jersey.
"People have asked , what is putting the names on a jersey gonna do? Well we plant seed for a better tomorrow. Yes, it takes time to grow but in due time amazing things will bloom," McCoughtry tweeted after the announcement.
The league also announced the formation of the player-led Social Justice Council, which will produce roundtables, podcasts and other initiatives to drive conversations around LGBTQ+ advocacy, voting rights, gun control and America's "long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism."
"Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players' social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond," Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. "Systemic change can't happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society."
However, not all seem to approve of the efforts. Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican who is a co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, has called on Engelbert to cancel the initiative honoring Black Lives Matter.
Loeffler, in a letter to Engelbert, said the league should instead place an American flag on jerseys and other team apparel, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In a statement, the league's commissioner responded: "The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice."
Last month, Loeffler came under fire after she referred to armed protesters who were demonstrating the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks as an example of a "mob rule." Protesters had gathered outside the Wendy's where Brooks was killed in Atlanta, CBS Sports reported.
Several WNBA players, including Skylar Diggins-Smith and Natasha Cloud, called for Loeffler's removal from the league after the comment. The player's union, the WNBPA, on Tuesday tweeted: "E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!"