- Programming note: Watch "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.
Though men often dismiss forthright women as nags, or worse, history tells us we should listen. The present does the same.
For a prominent example of intelligent women leading the way, carrying the brightest of lights, look no further than the WNBA.
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 destroying families, and numerous NBA players still trying to avoid vaccines, Washington Mystics player Natasha Cloud went public in hopes of persuading Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, who was among the holdouts.
“The info has been presented to us numerous times,” Cloud tweeted in a reply. “And they never said it would keep us from getting COVID. But it drastically decreases chances of death and slows the curve.”
This is a case of woman leads man, but man declines to follow. It is presumed that Beal remains unvaccinated.
This is but one example of the WNBA being on the front lines in addressing issues that really matter. Which is why we invited Las Vegas Aces president Nikki Fargas and LSU Prof. Lori Martin to share their experiences and observations in the episode of “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” premiering Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.
Fargas spent more than two decades coaching basketball at the collegiate level before being hired by Mark Davis, who owns both the WNBA Aces and the Las Vegas Raiders. He was specific about her job requirements.
“When Mark Davis talked to me about becoming president of the Aces, it wasn’t about basketball,” she recalls. “It was not about turnovers. It wasn’t about rebounds. It wasn’t about assists. It was about how can we advance women. And, specifically, when you look at the WNBA, we are heavily populated with Black women, women of color, who have been instrumental in holding it down in the world of athletics.”
Whether it’s Cloud trying to enlighten Beal, or WNBA teams coming together to protest racism – before Colin Kaepernick took a knee – history is repeating itself. Black women leading the way is almost routine, from Sojourner Truth to Harriet Tubman to Ida B. Wells to Fannie Lou Hamer to Rosa Parks . . . to Ruby Bridges to Gloria Richardson to Angela Davis to Stacey Abrams and Rep. Cori Bush.
It’s as if sacrificing for the greater good is, well, second nature. Hmm.
When Sen. Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA Atlanta Dream, raged against the Black Lives Matter movement and aligned with the racism espoused by former President Donald Trump in the runup to the 2020 election, the Dream’s roster swung into action. They wanted Loeffler as gone as Donald Sterling.
So, the Dream players and those around the WNBA worked beside Abrams, formerly of the Georgia House of Representatives, to accomplish both. Loeffler lost the election to Rep. Rafael Warnock, a Black man. A month later, the team was sold to a new group, which included former Dream star Renee Montgomery.
Mission completed. Job well done.
“It was really powerful, and it reminded me about the legacy of Black people and activism and the role of Black women in particular,” says Martin, a sociologist who has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books.
“You have people who are able to mobilize others to tackle tough challenges so that the group as a whole can thrive. And Black women have done that historically, whether you’re talking about the enslavement period with Sojourner Truth drawing attention to the unique experiences of Black women, but also tying that to the larger community including Black men.”
One of society’s great problems with women is not their inability to lead but man’s proclivity to pick and choose when he will listen.
Which brings us back to Cloud and Beal. They are great friends, have stood side-by-side in the nation’s capital to address racial and ethnic injustice. Cloud was coming from a place of knowledge, hoping to reach someone she cares about.
In essence, she wondered about those who distrust preventative science – until they are stricken and then turn to the science of responders at hospitals.
The WNBA, you see, not only was there for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Jacob Blake and Ahmaud Arbery, all victimized by law enforcement in 2020, but it also was there in the summer of 2016 for Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the Black Lives Matter movement.
And when WNBA president Lisa Borders fined those wearing protest attire instead of meeting uniform guidelines, players league-wide united against it. The fines were rescinded.
Two years later, Borders left the WNBA, later replaced by Cathy Engelbert, who has supported the voices of activism.
The minimization of women, whether conscious or subconscious, may be with us forever, in which case it’s an eternal indictment on man’s pathological desire to equate physical prowess with, ahem, superiority.
If only we would take the time to listen to what they have to say, we all might become more enlightened.