The WNBA and WNBPA agreed to feature the names of women who have died in connection to police brutality and racial violence on players' jerseys when the season begins later this month.
Among the women honored will be Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville in March, and Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a Texas jail in 2015.
Players will also wear warm-up shirts that say "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" throughout the season. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" will also be prominently displayed on courts at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., during games.
The announcement came as part of the WNBA and WNBPA's new initiative, "The Social Justice Movement," which launched Monday. The WNBA also plans to create a Social Justice Council to cultivate spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts and more to address inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism.
Players Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson and others will help lead the new group. Advisers to the council include Alicia Garza (founder of Black Future Labs and co-founder of Black Lives Matter), Carolyn DeWitt (Rock the Vote CEO) and Beverly Bond (founder/CEO of Black Girls Rock!).
Players across the WNBA and NBA have asked the leagues to focus on the fight for racial equality and social justice when their seasons return. Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream and Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics have opted to sit out the WNBA season to focus on pursuing social change.
Many athletes have called for a focus on social justice in sports in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police in late May. Floyd died after officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
In 2015, Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman, was found dead in a Texas jail three days after she was arrested during a routine traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide. In a dash-cam video, officer Brian Encinia was seen drawing his Taser and told Bland he would "light her up" if she did not extinguish her cigarette. He ordered Bland to exit her car and later arrested her after a scuffle off-camera.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, was shot eight times by plainclothes officers serving a narcotics search warrant at her Louisville, Ky., apartment on March 13. No drugs were found. One of the three officers who shot into Taylor's home has been fired, but protesters have called for the officers to be criminally charged.
The WNBA also plans to honor Vanessa Guillén, an Army specialist who had been missing from Fort Hood in Texas since April until her remains were found last week. Her family has said that they believe she was sexually harassed by her suspected killer—another Army specialist, who died by suicide after he was confronted by authorities—and is calling for a congressional investigation.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.