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WNBA players, America’s leading sports activists, have Texas in their crosshairs

The WNBA players union took out a full-page ad targeting Texas and other states with “cruel” anti-abortion laws.

Whereas your other favorite sports leagues and athletes may show — or hide — their support for causes through cryptic tweets and quiet donations, the WNBA’s talent isn’t as scared. They flaunt their activism much more openly.

In a full-page ad in The New York Times on Sunday, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association denounced Texas’ new, strict anti-abortion law, along with other attacks on reproductive rights coming from conservative-led legislatures across the nation.

The union is “proud to stand with everyone who’s fighting back against the cruel abortion bans in Texas and across the country,” the ad said. It went on to denounce “oppressive laws — and lawmakers — that dehumanize us, deny our fundamental freedoms, and attempt to dictate our most basic rights.” 

To recap its awfulness: Texas Senate Bill 8 bans all abortions past six weeks of pregnancy, when many pregnant people may not even realize they’re pregnant. The law also allows private citizens to sue providers who perform abortions after six weeks, and it allows plaintiffs to win at least $10,000 for each successful suit. On Oct. 8, a district appeals court ruled the law could resume after a federal judge temporarily blocked it, and the Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court to put the law on hold while it is appealed. 

Last month, several WNBA stars joined more than 500 female athletes who signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to protect abortion rights. The Times ad — a statement sanctioned by the WNBA players union and signed by its leadership — was a first for the league, but collective activism has been a growing trend in the WNBA in recent years, on reproductive rights and other matters.

Last summer, the players association condemned “senseless brutality” in a statement responding to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and members of the Atlanta Dream led protests against then-senator and team owner Kelly Loeffler for demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2019, members of the Washington Mystics were coordinated in their public opposition to restrictive anti-abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama. And in 2016, WNBA players led some of the earliest and most pronounced athlete protests against the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

The Times ad was just the latest demonstration from what is inarguably America’s most socially active sports league. Routinely, the WNBA has shown that when it comes to social justice, its players are about action. 

Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.

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