Sun, 09 Aug 2020

WNBA releases schedule, announces BLM tribute

Field Level Media
14 Jul 2020, 10:05 GMT+10

The WNBA revealed a revamped schedule Monday that will begin on July 25 and include all 12 teams in action on the opening weekend, with games to take place exclusively at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

The schedule will kick off with consecutive days of nationally televised tripleheaders andwill open with the Seattle Storm taking on the New York Liberty in an afternoon contest. The Phoenix Mercury will take on the Los Angeles Sparks on the opening day, followed by the champion Washington Mystics facing the Indiana Fever.

The July 25-26 weekend will see the league dedicate all play to the Black Lives Matter movement. All uniforms that weekend will bear the name of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville police officers on March 13, and players will have the option of continuing to wear Taylor's name throughout the season.

"Black Lives Matter" will be on the front of all warmup shirts for the opening weekend, with "Say Her Name" on the back. The words "Black Lives Matter" also will appear on game courts.

The league said in a statement that it hopes to see "WNBA players raise awareness and seek justice for the women and girls who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence."

The WNBA's attachment to the Black Lives Matter cause recently grew controversial when Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), a co-owner of the league's Atlanta Dream, expressed her disapproval of the movement. The WNBA players union subsequently asked for Loeffler to be forced to sell her share of the club, but Loeffler refused to change her opinion, saying in a Fox News interview that BLM could "destroy" America.

The WNBA season was supposed to begin May 15 but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of games being played across the country, all games were relocated to a single location in Florida.

During the 132-game schedule (22 games per team), players and coaches will be sequestered at the IMG Academy. After the regular season concludes on Sept. 12, the first and second round of the playoffs will be single elimination, followed by five-game series for the semifinals and WNBA Finals.

The Storm-Liberty opener will match the return of a pair of WNBA stars in Seattle's Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird against the future of the league in the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu. Stewart (Achilles), the 2018 WNBA MVP, and Bird (knee) missed the 2019 season, while Ionescu was the No. 1 overall selection in the April draft.

The Mystics are still awaiting word on whether 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne will play. She is waiting on a medical exemption for 2020 and has not yet joined the team in Florida.

"This 2020 WNBA season will truly be one unlike any other, and we're looking forward to using our collective platform to highlight the tremendous athletes in the WNBA as well as their advocacy for social change," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a release.

--Field Level Media

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