The Washington Mystics decided not to play against the Atlanta Dream and are boycotting their game on Wednesday night. Their decision comes in the aftermath of the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police officers as he was trying to enter his vehicle.
Blake survived the shooting but is currently paralyzed from the waist down.
After the Mystics' decision, the WNBA postponed the remaining two other games on the schedule, according to ESPN.
Both Atlanta and Washington discussed the decision to play the game for upwards of an hour on the floor they were set to tip-off from minutes later. Myisha Hines-Allen led the conversation, per ESPN's Holly Rowe, pushing for the teams to not play that evening.
"We wanted everybody to feel like they were supported," Ariel Atkins said on ESPN2. "Understanding that this just isn't about basketball. We aren't just basketball players and just because we are basketball players, that's our only platform. We need to understand that when most of us go home, most of us are Black."
Once the Mystics entered their locker room, separate from the other teams, they made the collective decision to not play. Atkins said that the team reached out to several of their teammates that are not currently in the WNBA bubble to help make the decision.
"I think when we went into that locker room, it was clear to me that, despite what it may have been said out on the court amongst teams, I think there were players kind of feeling pressured to play from the outside," head coach Mike Thibault said. "I think when they got in their own locker room and talked amongst themselves and us the true feelings came out and the heart wasn't in it"
All NBA Playoff games were also postponed today after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their matchup against the Orlando Magic.
Before the Bucks made the decision to protest, the Mystics were planning on making a statement before their scheduled game. They entered the facility wearing white t-shirts spelling out 'Jacob Blake' with seven spots on the back representing the seven bullets the entered his back.
"We're just trying to figure out how to make another statement to the world because right now nothing's changing," center Alaina Coates told reporters on a Zoom meeting Wednesday morning. "It keeps happening. We were given this great opportunity to come in here and do some great things. We still have a season, still have a job but right now like Black people are still suffering from police brutality and we're just trying to figure out what we can do at this point to help make another change."
Part of the players and WNBA's agreement to hold a season this year was to address social justice. Being in a bubble-like environment limits the impact players can have in their communities and their active role in the front lines of social reform. Many players were skeptical of the bubble silencing their voices and serve as a distraction from actual issues in society.
In response, the league agreed to dedicate the season to another victim of police brutality, Breonna Taylor and the 'Say Her Name' campaign. Her name is on the back of every players' jersey and the 12 teams made several demonstrations to honor her throughout the first half of the season.
There have also been other statements made to recognize Sandra Bland and movements to encourage fans to get out and vote.
"Our biggest focus right now is to be another voice that's heard," Coates said. "We're still trying to come up with things as we speak to do something, like obviously we're limited being here, especially in Florida and you know in this contained bubble but basketball of course is a priority but right now like the injustices that are going on in this world that's an even bigger priority for us to have our voices be heard to speak out to take some kind of action, like, yes basketball is important to us right now, but it's pretty much taking a backseat at this point."
Washington's Natasha Cloud was one of many WNBA players who opted out of the season to pursue her social justice efforts. She has been a vocal leader of the team for many years to speak up on injustices. Still, without her, the team has been vocal and plan to continue to speak on the injustices in society. On Wednesday, their decision sparked a league-wide statement to not play.
"If we do this unified as a league, it looks different because this league is close to, if not over 80 percent of Black women," Atkins said. "We matter and I think that's important. I think people should know that and I'm tired of telling people that."