Natasha Cloud is not playing basketball this season.
It's not because the coronavirus prevented the WNBA from returning. It's not because she is fearful of her health during the WNBA's aberrant season.
Natasha Cloud is not playing basketball this season because she is staying true to who she is as a person.
Natasha Cloud is proving that what is going on right now is bigger than basketball for her.
“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career but I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season,” Cloud said in a statement on Monday. “There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is 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 for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”
Cloud joins a now growing list of athletes that are putting their careers in the backseat for activism.
Former MVP Maya Moore, one of the biggest stars in the sport - who announced she wasn't going to play this year back in January - is sitting out her second straight season to fight for criminal justice reform. Atlanta's Renee Montgomery said last week that she will not join her teammates down in Brandenton, Fla for the season to focus on social justice.
More will likely join them before the June 25 deadline to decide to play. For years, the WNBA players have been at the front lines speaking out against injustices and making an impact off the floor.
Massive protests across the country from the death of George Floyd have sparked several players' advocacy while the start of the season was paused. They've been leading marches (Cloud helping organize the one in D.C.), partaking in protests and are involved in huge issues regarding their communities like never before.
Going to a 'bubble' to play ball would physically remove Cloud and others from that fight for reform. It would halt any momentum they have gained. She couldn't be leading the charge and have the same impact as they would at home.
"For some players, they feel that if they go back and play, it's going to distract them or they're not going to be able to give 100% of themselves to the game," Naismith Hall of Famer and WNBA Champion Sheryl Swoopes told ESPN's Outside the Lines.
"The time for us could not be bigger, more important and an opportunity for us to really speak up and make a difference and say 'we want to be a part of the change.'"
And by abstaining from an unprecedented season, Cloud is truly staying true to herself. She doesn't have the financial backing that an NBA player would by missing a season. Her $117,000 salary is less than a quarter of the NBA minimum.
She's using her platform to try and make a difference, as she has her entire career.
Cloud took part in a media blackout in 2016 for the WNBA to support their players and their advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement. She also spearheaded a media blackout last year in the Mystics locker room to address gun reform following gun violence at a nearby school. She wrote an essay in the Player's Tribune calling for other athletes to speak out on racism just last month.
Her mind is not on basketball - she said so herself at the D.C. march last week.
Cloud is focused on bigger things and right now, basketball can wait.
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