The Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks stood side-by-side at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night, their white T-shirts aglow in the dim light and their arms linked together as the crowd hushed for a moment of silence before the playing of the national anthem.
The players, in an effort led by Mystics guard and former Sparks player Kristi Toliver, wanted to pay tribute to those who died after white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville over the weekend for a rally in which local resident Heather Heyer, as well as two Va. state police officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, died.
The Mystics also wanted to make sure their voices were heard. The team has made an effort to raise its social consciousness this season; visits to the Newseum, National Museum of African American History and Culture and a meeting with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) were peppered between games when the team had time.
“Our team recently had the honor of meeting Rep. John Lewis, and part of his mantra that especially resonated with us was the message of recognition of wrong and having the courage to speak out,” read a statement released by players from both teams just before Wednesday’s game. “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.
“It is not a surprise that racism and bigotry exist in this country, but it is not something we stand for in any way. We feel great shock, sickness, and sadness with the degree of acceptance and normalization of this hatred, culminating in ways in the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.
“On behalf of both the Mystics and Sparks players, we feel pain and disbelief following the blatant hate displayed and the President’s response to it. There is no way to innocently protest alongside a hate-based group and to take pause on condemning the acts that took place is inexcusable.”
WNBA President Lisa Border also released a statement Wednesday night following the Mystics’ and Sparks’ tribute.
“We fully support our players, who are offering a demonstration of unity that we hope America can emulate in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville,” she said. “We offer our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and our support to those who were injured during the inexcusable violence that transpired.”