When Natasha Cloud made the decision to sit out the 2020 WNBA season to fight for social justice, she wasn't alone in her endeavor. Cloud joined a group of WNBA trailblazers that included former MVP and WNBA champion Maya Moore in her pursuit for equality.
Cloud's decision came when the country was in the midst of widespread protests and civil unrest against police brutality. Much of the frustration had reached a tipping point after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Less than a year later, Cloud is making her return to the Washington Mystics and the WNBA. The 2015 WNBA draft pick signed a multi-year contract this year to cement herself in the team's future. She'll return, along with Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, who both also missed the 2020 season.
Cloud's advocacy efforts, as the clear leading voice for societal change on the Mystics, are far from over. There's been some momentum made in the right direction in her eyes over the past year, but there's more to be done.
"The needle has definitely moved forward a tiny bit, but there's so much work for us to do still," Cloud said in a press conference Wednesday. "The plan going into 2021 is kind of very similar to how it was in 2019 when I took on gun violence in DC. My goal was to always be a champion on the court for the Mystics, but also to be a champion in the community. And heading into this next season, I think our team as a whole made a commitment, this is our identity, we understand that we play in the most powerful city in the world and so with that comes responsibility."
In the past Cloud has held media blackouts and demonstrated how she is more than an athlete. D.C.'s own Juneteenth protest was organized by Cloud and other members of the Mystics and Wizards.
With everything going on last year, it was okay with Cloud for basketball to take a backseat since she wouldn't physically be in the community to help spearhead action. She was willing to put her career aside for a time and use her position and voice to pursue change.
This past year Cloud and the Mystics made voter registration a focus. By the midpoint of the season, the Mystics were sacrificing their first possession of quarters for announcers to read off voter registration information. Of course, the WNBA also dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot to death in her Louisville home during a police raid, and wore her name on every jersey.
"I'm working every single day to still bring [Breonna Taylor] justice and still bring the countless amount of victims justice, that have fallen to police brutality in this country," Cloud said. The goal is always the same, as to move the needle forward in whatever facet we can. And when you look at social reform as a whole, it can be really daunting to look at the task that you have ahead of you and how this country has been built on oppressing systems of power towards black and brown people."
Missing a whole year weighed on Cloud. Not having basketball as an outlet or the team to have her back was tough. But the work must continue and she's going to do that on Washington's roster. But it was also worth the time away to focus on what matters most.
"The goal is always to what low hanging fruit can we have immediate impact on and so last year, it was the voting initiative going into this year," Cloud said. "We have, I have, a list of things that I'm passionate about, I have list of things that really I identify with as well that I'll continue to fight for but until honing in on those low-hanging fruits that I can have immediate impact on and then those fights that are going to be years to come. We're gonna have to continue to fight but the challenge is to be active every single day. Active every single day. It doesn't have to be these big monumental things that need, it can be as simple as calling out racism and discrimination in your workplace. It can be, you know, in your family, in your neighborhood, whatever it may be."