A 17-year veteran of the WNBA, Sue Bird acknowledges that this season has been different.
“It wasn’t just about basketball,” the Seattle Storm guard said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “You’re here to play basketball and you’re here to #SayHerName.”
While Bird has long been vocal about social justice causes, she notes that the dual athlete-activist role comes with its own challenges. “When you’re in this world of activism and organizing, there’s another [type] of energy that you expend,” she explains. “And oh, by the way, you have to be a basketball player as well… I think everyone could sit here and tell a story of hitting the ‘wubble’ wall.”
Bird points to several off-the-court experiences that helped rekindle her energy during the season, including a zoom call with former First Lady Michelle Obama to discuss voting rights. “[When people] show that they’re in your corner and show that they have your back, it does re-energize you.”
For Bird, the role that WNBA players have taken in the fight for racial equality is no coincidence. “We represent a demographic that gets lost in all of this… [We’re] a league of women, a league of black women, a league of gay women. We’re checking of all these boxes of people that just get left behind or don’t get talked about…. Who better to speak on these issues and keep them in the forefront than those that it directly affects?”
On Friday, the Seattle Storm will tip off against the Las Vegas Aces for game one of the WNBA Finals. Bird, 39, already owns three WNBA titles, having been a part in all of Seattle’s previous championship wins (2004, 2010, 2018). Regardless of the outcome, however, it’s hard to imagine a future where the 2020 WNBA season is remembered only for the team name engraved on the trophy.
“I think the lasting impact we will have is that we were able to continue to push this movement and this message forward,” Bird acknowledges. “Yes, it directly impacts us, but we also know we have to be – as Tasha Cloud [of the Washington Mystics] says – a voice for the voiceless.”
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