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Aces’ McCoughtry hopes jerseys can lead to social change

Updated June 30, 2020 - 1:02 pm

If Angel McCoughtry’s plan comes to fruition, she and others in the NBA and WNBA won’t have their own names on the back of their jerseys this season.

On June 22, McCoughtry, a five-time WNBA all-star who signed with the Aces in February after 10 years with the Atlanta Dream, posted on her Instagram page photos of Aces jerseys with the message Black Lives Matter and the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd on the back of them.

Her goal is to keep the names of those who have been injured or killed in instances involving police brutality, or those of front-line workers during the pandemic, at the forefront of discussion.

“The NBA has seen it and liked it, and the WNBA has, too,” McCoughtry said. “We want to have permission from the league to pick a name, and then get consent from the families. I would think that would be something the families would be excited about. Who wouldn’t want LeBron James or Diana Taurasi wearing the name of somebody they care about on their jersey?”

McCoughtry said this initiative goes beyond just putting a name on a jersey, though. She wants the players to build relationships with the families of the people the athletes choose to represent and listen to any ideas they have to bring about social change.

While McCoughtry hasn’t been in direct contact with the league about the idea, she said she’s received plenty of support from fellow players in the WNBA and the NBA. The WNBA is preparing for a 22-game 2020 season in Bradenton, Florida, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a statement last week addressing the general topic.

“Together, the WNBA and the WNBPA are dedicated to fighting the systemic racism and racialized violence that has plagued our society,” the statement said. “Working in close partnership with teams and the WNBPA and advised by leaders in social justice reform, the league aims to build a multifaceted platform to battle racial injustice and leverage the 2020 WNBA season and beyond to help players advance their social justice work. In our conversations, the players have voiced a strong desire to lead this effort and we have pledged strong support from the league.”

The NBA has yet to release a statement about the idea of having alternate names or slogans on jerseys, but NBA Players President Chris Paul on Saturday told ESPN the players association and the league are working with Nike to make it happen. ESPN has also reported the NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the sidelines at all three of the arenas in Orlando it plans to use upon its restart July 30.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he supports the players using their voice to speak out on issues.

The 33-year-old McCoughtry admits her head is spinning with everything going on in the world, from the COVID-19 pandemic to protests around the country after video surfaced of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. She’s also trying to get ready for a new season with a new team and play meaningful WNBA minutes for the first time since tearing ligaments in her left knee in 2018.

She said she has already seen ideas to confront social injustice that she likes from other players and hopes the proximity among the teams will help bring them closer and give them the ability to brainstorm more ideas.

“I think things are changing. There’s recognition all over the world that all of this has to stop,” McCoughtry said. “Like Will Smith said, racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed. Racism is taught hate. I think because of the COVID pandemic, people got to see many of the things people have been preaching about for so long.”

McCoughtry’s signing with the Aces came after she felt she had drifted apart from the Dream’s management.

One of them, Dream co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whom McCoughtry has called “a great person in my life,” likened Black people in Atlanta carrying guns while protesting the police killing of Rayshard Brooks to “mob rule” Thursday in a Fox News interview.

McCoughtry said she was highly disappointed by Loeffler’s comments and said they point to a double standard.

“It’s called a mob when Black people (protest with guns), but it’s fine when Caucasian guys do it,” she said. “The double standard is obvious. I’m challenging Kelly Loeffler to learn. Come to our neighborhoods. Get to know us. Somebody will probably invite you in and make you dinner. I’ve played overseas and had people ask us why we divide ourselves by white and Black, and I can’t answer that. We’re all Americans, and we hope these initiatives to fight social injustice will help bring people together.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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