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Washington WNBA team condemns nearby ‘Unite the Right’ rally before game

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sunday afternoon, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics faced off against the the Dallas Wings in a game that has major implications for the WNBA playoffs which start in less than two weeks.

But prior the game, the players wanted to to make it clear that their hearts were heavy due to the white supremacist rally happening just blocks away at the White House. Even with the postseason on the line, the players in the WNBA will not just shut up and dribble.

Before the national anthem was sung, Mystics’ All-Star guard Kristi Toliver took the microphone and addressed the crowd.

“While we are set to play a game today, it would be mindless and irresponsible to not mention what’s happening down the street in our great city. Today makes the one-year anniversary of the ‘Unite the Right’ demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, a rally rooted in racism and hate,” Toliver said.

“We feel shock at the state of this country and believe that hate should never be granted this platform. We feel our purpose is to love and respect people of all backgrounds, we believe bigotry is never justified, we believe in living in true equality, and we believe in the courage to speak out. 

“Our message against these beliefs and actions remain as strong today as it did a year ago. As our leadership fails to provide this inclusive environment, it is all the more important that we together use our power for good. Continue to acknowledge these issues in your daily lives — speak,act, and live with compassion.”

Last year, the Mystics played a game against the Los Angeles Sparks in D.C. a few days after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Led by Toliver, the Mystics organized a protest during the national anthem with the Sparks to show unity and tolerance. While the national anthem was played, the two teams stood together in one line, so that each player linked arms with members of the opposing team.

“It is not a surprise that racism and bigotry exist in this country, but it is not something we stand for in any way. We feel great shock, sickness, and sadness with the degree of acceptance and normalization of this hatred, culminating in ways in the events in Charlottesville this past weekend,” the team said in a statement released last year.

“On behalf of both the Mystics and Sparks players, we feel pain and disbelief following the blatant hate displayed and the President’s response to it. There is no way to innocently protest alongside a hate-based group and to take pause on condemning the acts that took place is inexcusable.”

The WNBA as a league has been incredibly outspoken on issues of social justice.  Two summers ago, even before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, WNBA players were wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and staging media blackouts to talk about police brutality and systemic racism.

“Think about history in general,” Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams told ThinkProgress in May. “It’s usually black women who are leading these marches and movements.”

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