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NBA Storm and Liberty players walk out during national anthem in peaceful protest

The Seattle Storm and New York Liberty walked off the court during the playing of the national anthem before the WNBA season-opening game on Saturday afternoon.

The two teams’ planned walk-off was part of the league’s season-long Justice Movement initiative – designed to fight systemic racism and violence – which the WNBA and Women’s National Basketball Players Association announced earlier in July. 

On Saturday, players from the Storm and the Liberty headed for their locker rooms while the national anthem played at the WNBA bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

As the national anthem was played, the @nyliberty and @seattlestorm walked off the floor as part of the social justice initiative. pic.twitter.com/VihH5X3Yzh

Both teams then returned to the court and observed 26 seconds of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was 26 years old when she was killed in March by police in Kentucky serving a no-knock warrant at her residence. 

The players had her name printed on the backs of their jerseys under their own.

In a sign of solidarity, Layshia Clarendon of the Liberty and Breanna Stewart of the Storm addressed their teammates and the television audience before the season tip-off.

‘We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,’ Clarendon said. ‘Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around her.

“We will say her name.”

The @nyliberty and @seattlestorm participated in a powerful moment of recognition for Breonna Taylor ahead of Saturday’s game. pic.twitter.com/ZrRYWqV7nl

‘We are also dedicating this season to “Say Her Name” campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice of Black women — Black women are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who don’t have people marching in the streets for them,’ Clarendon also said. 

‘We will say her name. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Dominique Fells. Breonna Taylor. We will be a voice for the voiceless.’

Players and staff also wore shirts that read ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the front and ‘Say Her Name’ on the back.

The WNBA’s walk-off follows several MLB teams kneeling prior to their games to show unity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Some players were also seen taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. 

The Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner reported that players from several NBA times intend to kneel during the opening night of the league’s restarted season on July 30.  

‘Sources: NBA players plan to kneel during National Athem on opening nights of season, starting Thurs,’ Turner tweeted July 24. 

‘Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Raptors, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat staying at same hotel had a meeting. “One of the 1st oncourt actions will be kneeling opening night,” player said.’

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is still investigating Taylor’s incident. None of the officers involved in her shooting have been arrested or charged.

The Storm won the WNBA season opening game, 87 to 71.

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