Cloud, Sanders Two of a Growing List of Players Opting out of WNBA Season

The WNBA season may be returning, but not all players will be suiting up for the 2020 season. Mystics General Manager Mike Thibault announced Monday that two members of the 2019 Championship team- Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders are among other players that have opted out of playing in the 2020 WNBA Season.

“We respect and support Natasha’s decision to prioritize her life and goals,” stated Thibault. “Her commitment to social justice issues is of utmost importance to her and, therefore, to the Mystics organization.  We will continue to be partners with her and all of our players on their commitment to social justice reform as we go forward into this season and beyond.”

The WNBA announced a 22-game regular-season plan earlier this month to be played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. All 12 WNBA Teams are expected to have training camps, practices, and games starting in early July. Between health concerns around COVID-19 and the desire to sacrifice playing basketball to focus on social justice in the Civil Rights Movement, players across the league have expressed concerns about returning in July.

WNBA players were given until Thursday, June 25 to let their teams know if they are opting out for the season. Future Hall of Famer and Minnesota Lynx star, Maya Moore, announced earlier this month that she will be missing her second straight WNBA season to work on criminal justice reform including a criminal case around Jonathan Irons.

Atlanta Dream’s Renee Montgomery took to social media as she also announced her decision to opt-out of the season to focus on social injustice.

Think about how empowering and inspirational it is for these players, in the peak of their career, to put the game they love on hold, for the greater good of being a part of something much larger than sports. It is incredible and something we may not fully understand the magnitude of until farther into the future.

Cloud and Sanders are the first two Mystics players to make the decision to miss their season to be a part of the larger fight for change. Since Friday two other WNBA players- Cece Zandalasini of the Lynx and Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones also announced they won’t be playing this season. It is likely that other players will be announcing the decision to do the same.

2019 Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award Recipient, Natasha Cloud has been very active and vocal in her fight for change. This past weekend Cloud and Washington Wizards Bradley Beal led their teammates in a united peaceful Juneteenth protest. The Wizards and Mystics players stood united with their fists held high, leading a powerful D.C movement.

The bigger picture here is that players are showing how they are more than an athlete. Sports and society do not have to be separate. You can be an athlete and actively involved in the civil rights movement, openly advocating for change. No one has to just stick to sports. 

Players have been among many actively taking to social media to voice their role in the fight for change. Across sports leagues, we have been seeing players use their platforms to speak up. In the Premier League in Europe. players, coaches, and officials took a knee at kickoff as their jerseys continue to read “Black Lives Matter” in place of their last name.

We have seen the reports unfold around over 80 NBA players including Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, and Dwight Howard to name a few that have been meeting on zoom to discuss concerns around the lack of transparency in the NBA’s return to play.

In Wrestling, superstars Big E and Kofi Kingston took a knee in the middle of the ring with their fists held high. In NASCAR, after news broke that a noose was hung in Bubba Wallace’s garage, the only black racer, all drivers stood united to make a statement.

Although we are not fully sure how all sports leagues will safely return from COVID-19, one thing is for certain, many athletes of all races and backgrounds are using their platforms to continue to push the conversation of change in the Black Lives Matter Civil Rights Movement. Hopefully, positive change is coming for us all.

Renee Washington
Renee Washington is a reporter with Fox Sports covering the Washington Mystics and Wizards. She also hosts a weekly Fox Sports Radio show on 96.9FM 1340AM called Beyond the Headlines with Renee Washington.

Renee is a reporter and analyst with ESPN covering college athletics. She also hosts a daily show called "Locked on Wizards" with the Locked on Podcast network.