All season long, WNBA players have been protesting against racism by choosing to leave the court during the playing of the national anthem. But the WBNA has recently declared that they have decided not to continue this demonstration during the Tokyo Olympics. They will stay on the court during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Sue Bird, the Olympic team captain, recently addressed the media about this decision. She claimed that it was not “hypocritical” because she and her teammates were playing for Team USA, not individual cities.
“You are wearing USA jerseys, and it does change the conversation a little bit and what you’re representing,” Bird told The Associated Press.
“With that, I don’t feel like a hypocrite in any way,” she noted. “Everyone knows where we stand. I don’t think it contradicts anything since we’re actually doing the work.”
It was reported in the Washington Post that throughout the WBNA season the four-time Olympic gold medalist and the whole team has stayed in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. They wrote that the WNBA has “led the way” on social justice protests in professional basketball. according to a report last year from the Post. The women’s league made such “woke” moves before NBA players walked off the court over racial injustice and put on their jerseys “woke” slogans.
Bird, who was a U.S. flag bearer at the opening ceremony, believes people know where she and her WNBA teammates stand on social justice issues.
The WNBA introduced a “WNBA Social Justice Council” to organize players’ anti-racist efforts. But in Tokyo, Bird says fans should expect a more muted approach. In fact in an exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, players just locked arms during the national anthem, giving an example of a more “relaxed” protest.
“We all want our country to be a better place, and that’s what this is about,” Bird said. “That’s an athlete’s mentality, and there’s really no better people to do that than athletes. What do we do every single day? What do we talk about? Getting better.”
It is certainly well known that “woke” protests have not been welcome at the Tokyo Olympics and there is growing pressure on this international stage. Americans are proving unenthusiastic about the 2020 summer games and this is, in part, because of protesting athletes.
The Daily Wire reported recently, “more than 60% of Americans were unable to express excitement or interest in the summer games, and at least 45% of Americans confirmed they are NOT looking forward to the games in any capacity.” Speculation about a ratings downfall was confirmed Sunday. “Just 16.7 million Americans tuned in to NBC’s broadcast of the ceremony, the smallest U.S. television audience to watch the event in the past 33 years, according to preliminary data from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal,” according to The Daily Wire.
WNBA’s Sue Bird is engaged to the United States women’s soccer star and woke icon, Megan Rapinoe. After the women’s soccer team lost to Sweden in the first game of the Olympics, viewers hit social media saying that Rapinoe and her team were more interested in scoring “woke” points than scoring goals.
Political gestures are allowed before official competitions begin but barred on the medal stands and during events. But logistically it would be difficult for the U.S. to not be on the court for the playing of the anthem. Unlike WNBA games when it’s played about 10 minutes before tipoff, at the Olympics it’s done right before the start of games.
This move by the WBNA may be too little too late to garner the support of those watching the games.