Those wishing to honor MLK could learn a lot from WNBA players

Photo Credit: Stephen Gosling/NBAE/Getty Images

During the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, one probably scrolled through their timelines and saw many a remembrance of the civil rights icon from other sports figures, politicians, average Joes and even companies.

Many of these companies gave their employees the day off in remembrance of King.

But one probably saw many a “remembrance” from political figures that, while deifying King today, probably would have referred to him in not-so-flattering language if they were around during the 1950s and 1960s.

We see that many of these same political figures that think it is a good public relations maneuver to celebrate King on his day want to do everything to erase King’s legacy of fighting for social justice and a better world for everyone – not only Black people.

The issue with celebrating MLK is too many otherwise well-meaning individuals believe that King’s legacy starts and ends with his “I Have A Dream” speech that he gave in Washington, D.C. roughly 50-60 years ago.

And while it is one of the most iconic speeches ever given in history, too many that wish to honor King believe that he was all about “dreaming” about living in a nation where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

They will choose that one day to honor the late Dr. King, but do everything against what King would have stood for if he were still alive today. After all, King’s legacy was not merely about one “dream” and one speech. It was about pushing for fairer economic conditions, voting rights, social justice, etc. Did King have his flaws? Yes he did – as we all do. But he cared for the human race as a whole and that is the reason why many a street, many a school and many a monument has been erected in his honor.

Ironically, the same individuals that remember those few words from his “I Have A Dream” speech are the same ones who do judge others by the color of their skin – which says plenty about the content of their character. Those who carry on King’s legacy, including the descendants in his family, have called this out numerous times and urged those who do the opposite of what King would have wanted to not even bother remembering the late, great civil rights leader.

They do not believe it is just to celebrate Dr. King on one day then look down on their fellow human beings the other 364 days of the year simply because their skin color varies from their own.

The majority of WNBA players are Black women and a sizable number of those same players are part of the LGBTQ + community. Many a WNBA player has experienced the ills of racism, sexism, homophobia and/or xenophobia throughout their lives inside and outside of sports.

But as individuals that have unfortunately come face to face with many of these societal ills, they have been steadfast in pushing for social justice and a fairer world for us all.

After all, one of the W’s signature franchises, the Atlanta Dream, was literally named after King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

A couple of years ago, Dream players made MLK proud when they stood up in the face of its oppressive co-owner Kelly Loeffler (who at the time was also a U.S. Senator from Georgia) after she made comments that went against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Atlanta’s players, while confined to a bubble because of the pandemic, still made their message heard far and wide by wearing shirts in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock – of Ebenezer Baptist Church. The “Vote Warnock” shirts worn by Dream and other WNBA players brought greater attention to his campaign and that Senate race as a whole. The WNBA community demanded that Loeffler be ousted from the league.

Eventually in early January of 2021, Warnock defeated Loeffler in a Senate runoff. In addition, Jon Ossoff won over David Perdue in his Senate race, which flipped control of Congress’ upper chamber from Republican to Democratic.

That is how you honor Dr. King.

This of course has not been the only example of how WNBA players have fought for social justice. Many a player, at the height of a global pandemic, took to the streets after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and demanded justice for the Floyd and Taylor families.

Among those were Liz Cambage and Natasha Cloud.

That is how you honor Dr. King. Eventually, Floyd’s family got justice.

Six years ago, players from the Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever and New York Liberty also staged on-court protests following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Initially, they were met with fines – before those fines were later rescinded.

Too many remembrances were posted yesterday from individuals who would not have imagined how loathed Dr. King was for his struggle for civil rights. They also do not know how Black, Brown, Native American, Asian and Muslim individuals still go through to this day to be accepted in a country that still has yet to truly address its racial divides or tangibly confront its original sin – slavery.

Those that are looking to truly honor King could learn a lot from WNBA players. While many simply tweet hollow remembrances of the civil rights icon, the players of the W are out and about in the community fighting for social justice. They fight for Black, Brown, Native American, Asian and Muslim rights as well as women’s rights and LGBTQ + rights.

Honoring Dr. King is when teams such as the Liberty and Seattle Storm a few seasons ago declared its unwavering support of Planned Parenthood. Honoring Dr. King is when Liberty owners Clara Wu and Joe Tsai announced a $50 million initiative to benefit BIPOC initiatives over the next decade.

Honoring Dr. King is when the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne and her wife Amanda auctioned a “Demand Justice” basketball hoop on with 100% of the proceeds benefitting the NAACP. Honoring Dr. King is when Breanna Stewart took part in protests at Los Angeles International Airport to protest a racist Middle Eastern travel ban. Honoring Dr. King is when the Connecticut Sun launched its “Change Can’t Wait” platform to address anti-Black and anti-Brown racism throughout its region.

Actions, after all, speak louder than words and the actions of WNBA players suggest that there are many – particularly those who work on Capitol Hill – who could learn from their example if they are sincere about honoring Dr. King and making his “dreams” into a reality.

King once said that…

…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

WNBA players have shown through their admirable fight for social change that the 3-point arc is not the only one they are familiar with.

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