For the better part of her WNBA career, Natasha Cloud has been among the most passionate advocates for social justice in professional sports.
Last summer, she called on District officials to engage in meaningful conversation about curbing gun violence in Ward 8, where the Mystics play home games and practice at Entertainment and Sports Arena.
So when video surfaced last week of George Floyd, a black man, dying after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on the back of his neck for more than eight minutes, Cloud took to the Players’ Tribune to author an essay titled “Your Silence Is a Knee on My Neck.”
“The millions of people who are helping to protect those racist cops, and who are helping to insulate those in power, by staying ‘neutral.’ That right there is what’s exhausting to me,” Cloud wrote. “It’s all the people who think that — in 2020!! — they can still somehow just politely opt out of this …
“And those are the people who I wanted to write this for.”
Cloud originally was asked to write about the upcoming WNBA season, but after a discussion with content managers at the Players’ Tribune on Friday, she pivoted.
The essay didn’t take long to write, she said.
“Over this last week I’ve had a lot of different emotions,” Cloud said in a telephone interview Sunday. “Everything from frustration to anger to sadness, feeling a sense of my power being taken away, so just talking it out, just being able to have the conversation to where my thoughts were going, made it a lot easier.”
Floyd’s death led to charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter against Derek Chauvin, the since-fired officer shown in the video administering a knee to Floyd’s neck. Three other police officers on the scene also were fired, although charges have not been filed against them.
Protests over Floyd’s death have erupted across the country over the past week, including in the District, where activists decrying police brutality clashed with U.S. Secret Service and Park Police officers Saturday afternoon, the second such violent confrontation in a little more than 12 hours.
By early Saturday night, protesters wearing masks because of the novel coronavirus pandemic had circled the perimeter of the White House grounds, which had law enforcement vehicles, metal barriers and members of the Secret Service, D.C. police and U.S. Park Police in place for protection.
Images of vandalism in Philadelphia were particularly wrenching for Cloud, who is from there and finished her college basketball career at Saint Joseph’s following one season at Maryland.
“I was glad I was able to take my emotions and turn them into something productive,” Cloud said. “I’m a believer in Martin Luther King in that darkness can’t drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can’t drive out hate; only love can do that.
“You’re seeing the Malcolm X of people come out, and when you push people, and you push them, you push them to their limits and nothing’s being done. George Floyd isn’t the first person murdered. He won’t be the last black man murdered. He won’t be the last black person murdered, and that’s the scary thing about the society that we live in.
“People get fed up, so do I condone the looting and the burning of cities? No, because that hurts our communities more than it helps us, especially in Minnesota. Burning grocery stores during a pandemic, there’s a lot of people who need those necessities, and it’s really hard to come by in our black communities. It’s already hard enough, so I don’t condone it, but I do understand it.”
Cloud also praised teammate Elena Delle Donne, last season’s WNBA MVP, for responding to Floyd’s death with an Instagram story and posting Nike’s new “Don’t Do It” campaign to her account.
Other area athletes, including the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, the Redskins’ Adrian Peterson and the Nationals’ Sean Doolittle, have joined Cloud and Delle Donne in speaking out.
“At this point, if you can’t see the inequality, the wrongness in what’s going on in our country, then that says a lot about who you are as a human being,” Cloud said. “Because I bet that you ask any other person that’s not black if they would want to be black in America, and they would say no.
“That for me is you’re conscious of what’s going on, but because it doesn’t necessarily affect you, it’s not your problem, and that’s part of the problem with where we are at right now.”
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