In honor of Black History Month, Sports Illustrated is passing the pen to prominent Black voices across sports to reflect, reexamine legacies and share their stories and viewpoints on what lies ahead for the next generation of trailblazers.
What’s my purpose?
I think I’m still figuring that out in my life, figuring that out in my career path, figuring that out in myself.
You wouldn’t know it, but I’m an introvert. I’m a homebody. Right now, I’m headfirst into any and all things coaching—studying and evaluating talent. I just finished watching HBO Max’s The Art of Coaching with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, trying to figure out what the greats utilize, so I can implement that in my grand scheme. And when I’m not doing the coaching stuff, I’m with my parents, watching basketball or TV shows like People Puzzler and 25 Words or Less.
But I’m constantly transforming. I was fighting the idea of going into coaching for a very long time. People had been telling me for whatever reason they saw something in me that I didn’t see. I was trying to do fashion or some other stuff, but coaching just kept coming back to me. It landed when I had the chance to be on the Los Angeles Sparks’ staff. I walked in and since then, so many opportunities have come about—learning opportunities, mentorships, ways for me to be able to grow within this career path.
It’s funny, because thinking of myself as an advocate, that’s crazy to me as well. That found me, too. Up until a certain point in my career or life, I was just kinda living. I was trying to get by. I was trying to survive in certain instances. To be honest, as a Black person you’re not supposed to get comfortable in the conditions that we live in. But we just learned how to navigate.
In 2012 and ’13 while Minnesota was fighting to legalize same-sex marriage, I was just stating my opinion. Just sharing my experience with people who have accepted me as one of their own and trying to help others on their journey. But at that time, a lot of older gay couples came up to me and told me their stories—about not being able to be out, about having to dress a certain way and having to keep their blinds closed at their homes in order to have privacy. There were a couple of times I was out in Minneapolis and I ran into fans and we just stopped and chitchatted and they thanked me for speaking out. That was special, too.
In the W, we’ve always had a great LGBTQ+ fan base, but you have started to see people really identifying with players that they want to be connected with. Identifying with their journeys and their struggles. We have more of an intimate connection with our fans, and that tends to keep us alive and drive forward. The league has finally embraced that, too. For so long, it seemed they didn’t want to fully accept it. But once we started to embrace that, you saw the beautiful things that happened.
I tell my friends all the time: I’m learning and I’m a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s one example: When Lynx guard Layshia Clarendon came out as trans, when they speak up on trans issues, I try to listen. I don’t know what it’s like to be trans. But it’s an important thing to sit and to learn—to be educated on other people’s experiences.
And when we speak on issues of racial injustice, the same is true. I don’t remember a time before 2016 when players had made our voices heard. We all knew things were happening. But no one ever felt the courage or need to say anything. But the killing of Alton Sterling—that situation started like a block away from where I grew up. I literally visited that store often as a child to get candy. That could have been any family member of mine. A friend, classmate, anybody in my community or neighborhood. And the killing of Philando Castile, that was in Minnesota. At some point, you have to be able to speak up. We, at the Lynx organization, did just that.
We didn’t experience a lot of negativity from our protest of police brutality, or at least as much as people would assume, but the negativity that we did get, hurt. Plus, it was very painful to see some of my white teammates receive hate mail from people of their own race—some from people they knew—about how they felt.
With the change you hope to see, you can’t be quiet and hope it’s going to be silently changed. You have to be bold. You have to be courageous. You have to sacrifice yourself at times for others who are shy about speaking on topics, or are fearful to use their voice because of whatever the consequences may be. That’s something I’ve learned in my life.
You can start to create that energy. Every day I thought about change, even if it wasn’t specifically about advocating for this or for that. I want to be able to use my voice and create change—that’s literally something I would say every day when I manifest. I believe you are what you think.
But I’m still thinking—about who I am and what my purpose is. That journey has led me this far.