Mystics guard Natasha Cloud calls for end of silence around racism in powerful essay

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Mystics guard Natasha Cloud calls for end of silence around racism in powerful essay

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud penned a powerful personal essay in The Players Tribune published Saturday, calling for individuals, particularly athletes, to not be silent on issues of race. 

In the essay, she asks fellow athletes to stand up with her to call out racism without politely opting out of the conversation. Athletes, as she notes, have the power to help influence and change behavior. They have the "ability to really change things."

Her essay is following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who died after a police officer put his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes. His death has sparked outrage and civil unrest in the community and in several other cities across the country. 

Cloud says that she is tried of herself fearing for her life and for other black people for fearing for their lives and the systems that uphold white supremacy.

That’s what’s so scary about it to me. That’s what’s so crazy about it, and so frustrating. And if I’m being honest, that’s what pisses me off. Because it’s like — those racist cops who keep killing us? There’s way too many of them, that’s for sure. But we’re going to keep on speaking out, keep on shining a light at their behavior….. and eventually we’re going to get them the hell out of the paint. Relatively speaking, that one’s easy. But you know what’s not as easy?? You know what’s harder to shine a light on? The millions of people who are helping to protect those racist cops, and who are helping to insulate those in power, by staying “neutral.” That right there is what’s exhausting to me. It’s all the people who think that — in 2020!! — they can still somehow just politely opt out of this [expletive].

Cloud is one of many professional athletes to speak out following the death of Floyd including the Wizards' Bradley Beal and Nationals' Sean Doolittle.

In her essay, Cloud also highlighted the response from Mystics teammate Elena Delle Donne in an Instagram Story in the immediate aftermath of Floyd's death. Since, Delle Donne has posted Nike's new campaign "Don't Do It" which calls out racism on her accounts as well.

"I saw Elena’s post, and I was just like….. Ahhh, I [expletive] KNEW my teammate would have my back. I knew it. And that felt so good. That’s the MVP of our league, one of the most famous white basketball players alive, and now everyone is seeing how real she is. How she didn’t hesitate — she got in there. And it was like, even that ONE post on its own, it took just a little bit of the weight off my shoulders. It made me feel just a little less powerless in this world," Cloud said. 

In the past Cloud has spoken out against gun violence in DC, holding a "media blackout" to address gun reform in D.C. Since arriving in the WNBA she has been a huge vocal leader of her community and measures her success by her impact.

Read the full essay in The Players Tribune

Why new Mystic Essence Carson chose to play in the WNBA this season over sitting out for social justice

Why new Mystic Essence Carson chose to play in the WNBA this season over sitting out for social justice

Essence Carson has had quite a career as a basketball player. But many know her for the role she played in the infamous Don Imus controversy in 2007.

So when the newly signed Washington Mystic had to make the choice whether to compete or not for this upcoming season (while many other WNBA stars opted out to fight for social justice), it is noteworthy that she chose to play. 

"I did my protests," Carson said in a Zoom meeting with reporters on Saturday. "This wasn't my first round of protests. What I like to tell people is that 'I've been Black all my life.' So, the experience isn't anything that's new, speaking up for myself and for my community. It's nothing new. It's been a daily thing for me for a long time."

She was the captain of the Rutgers women’s basketball team when Imus made his inappropriate comments. Quickly, Carson became the focal point of interviews and media conversations in the press that followed.

The way she handled the aftermath of Imus' remarks drew attention from many. Carson was well-spoken beyond her years and no 20-somethings probably could have managed the situation better. Since then, Carson has been regarded as a figure in the fight against racism.


That doesn't mean, though, that Carson's calm but powerful voice will be silenced now that she is in the WNBA's bubble in Bradenton, Fla.

Earlier in July the WNBA dedicated the 2020 season to social justice and launched The Justice Movement and created the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. This was in response to numerous players who called for action following the death of George Floyd and the protests across the country.

This season there will be virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, dedication to violence victims on jerseys and 'Black Lives Matter' text featured prominently on the court. In a statement, the WNBA made a powerful stance committing to "drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change."

This response from the league is what swayed the 33-year-old. Being able to use her voice in a unique way within the bubble could open up to new creative ways to be an activist in the WNBA.

"Being able to get my message across, convey that message in a way that I like to, it doesn't necessarily always require me to be there front and center," Carson said. "So, I just wanted to be a little innovative, see how innovative I can be within this bubble with using my voice in different ways than I possibly have used it in the past, which would be more hands-on the more in-person approach.

"So yeah, you can be creative. You have to be. And as a Black community that I feel like that's what we do best, right we win when we've been given so little throughout our existence, we always found, or find ways to make things happen, make something out of nothing. That is a talent. That is, you know, we've been blessed with that ability."

After playing on a one-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury last season, Carson was not on a roster when the WNBA announced its plan to hold a season. The Mystics signed the guard/ forward after Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders announced they would not play in 2020. 

She admits that it took some patience to get through the uncertainty of the season and not being with a team. Had Washington not shown interest, there's a chance she would not have gotten the opportunity to be in the unique spot where the season focuses on race.

But just because she chose to play doesn't mean that it was wrong for others to opt-out. She's fighting her fight and wants others to do the same.

"I don't want anyone to believe that or feel that, because they don't fight the fight in a way that their neighbor may fight the fight that their role isn't important," Carson said. "You fight the fight the way you choose to fight, just fight the fight. And so the bubble won't silence me in that regard"

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Mystics coach Mike Thibault has a different approach to the WNBA bubble's living conditions

Mystics coach Mike Thibault has a different approach to the WNBA bubble's living conditions

Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault is an old-fashioned type of person. He likes his dad jokes, appreciates the simple things in life and most certainly is not going to complain about the lack of amenities within the WNBA's bubble on social media. 

As WNBA athletes have begun their bubble quarantine down in Bradenton, Fla, several players have expressed their disdain for some of their living conditions.

Images and videos have scattered Twitter and Instagram of the player's laundry rooms filed with mouse traps, worms on the floor of some rooms, and their inadequate meals. The Mystics' own Tianna Hawkins posted about her shower being backed up on her IG story. While these are all less than ideal, Thibault has a different approach on how to get some changes. 

"I find it to kind of be a generational difference," Thibault, 69, told the media via Zoom. "My first instinct if something isn't right, is to try to go fix it. Make a call, go do something. See if you know I can switch rooms...

"My first instinct when I have a problem is not to tweet the world and tell them everybody about it because I'd rather problem solve."

Certainly, there have been issues within the bubble. That's not just in the WNBA, but some MLS and NBA players have voiced their frustrations - primarily with their food options - once they reached their own respective campus in Florida. 


But Thibault wants there to be some restraint on the complaints and coverage. He says there are no bed bugs, as reported by Deadspin, and the league is moving quickly to fix some of the problems addressed by the players.

Not only does he think most of these issues will be corrected, but once the players get on the court things will change. 

"Nothing's going to be ideal in quarantine, I mean our players really haven't had a chance to go and see the campus much and do everything else because they've basically been in their rooms and you know that's not fun for anybody to be cooped up but it's part of a show that everybody's safe," Thibault said.

Thursday afternoon is the first opportunity for some WNBA players to leave their rooms. All individuals entering the bubble must quarantine for four to seven days before stepping foot on campus. Once quarantines are done, training camp for each team will begin. 

"I think that you'll see as we get into practices and people get out about a little bit more on campus. That feeling of being cooped up will go away. You know it's a different environment. Nobody said this was going to be ideal and we certainly don't have the same amenities that maybe the NBA does but you know we also don't have that same kind of money coming into that helps pay for that so we're in a nice place."

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