CHOOSING TO TAKE IT HIGHER
Sky’s new campaign will help local groups through their scoring
The Sky made a pact for this season: Anything they were going to do, they would do it together. The agreement applied to the team’s decision to enter the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, as well as joining the league in dedicating the season to social justice.
However, Sky players knew they wanted to do more than what the league was already planning.
Over the last two months, the team has collectively been brainstorming ways to use its growing platform to continue the conversation about systemic racism — especially locally in the Chicago area — while going beyond just raising awareness.
“What kind of difference can we make?” forward Gabby Williams said the players asked themselves.
After much deliberation among teammates with former Bears linebacker Sam Acho, the founder and president of Athletes for Justice, Sky players unveiled Tuesday — before their 96-78 win against the Sparks — how they’re going to do that.
Led by Williams and guard Diamond DeShields, they launched a new social justice campaign, “Sky Takes Action,” in which players will donate their own money — based on game-day performance — to five local organizations: By the Hand Club for Kids, BYP100, The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago and Future Ties.
The plan is to donate $10 for each point scored and an additional $100 for each win and $50 for each loss. Williams said the donations will be split equally from all players, who will pool their money every few weeks.
After Sunday’s thrilling 88-86 victory against the Aces, the Sky have already raised $980 for charity. They hope their donations will be matched by fans and sponsors and are encouraging fans to join the conversation using the hashtag #SkyTakesAction. Sky players are also in discussion with the team’s ownership group to see if they might contribute as well.
The Sky will promote the campaign throughout the season, with players wearing special warmups and gear. The team’s website will also be collecting donations.
Williams said the team also plans to auction off game-worn items, exclusive FaceTime calls with players and more.
“This is a moment where we can educate people on how they can make a difference, because I think now, at least in my lifetime, we as a country are just so motivated,” Williams said. “We’re so angry — we can’t believe it’s still happening, and everybody doesn’t want history to repeat itself. So I think that’s part of this initiative, too, is teaching people about these organizations, because I think you can make the most difference locally, so we’re teaching people how and where they can volunteer, how they can get educated, and it goes beyond raising money and awareness.”
“THIS IS A MOMENT WHERE WE CAN EDUCATE PEOPLE ON HOW THEY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BECAUSE I THINK NOW, AT LEAST IN MY LIFETIME, WE AS A COUNTRY ARE JUST SO MOTIVATED.” GABBY WILLIAMS, Sky forward and co-leader of new charity campaign
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The news reached the NBA campus as quickly as a fastball over the plate. Major League Baseball postponed two games Monday after 14 Marlins players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, Marlins games were called off through Sunday. Should that leave the NBA worried it could strike out on trying to resume its season? Or should it make the league more confident it can hit a home run?
“I don’t even compare the two,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “What they’re doing and what we’re doing is so different. I like what we’re doing.”
Why is that? While MLB teams are still traveling by plane, NBA teams are all in the “bubble” at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. While the Marlins reportedly decided by player text vote to resume despite having a handful of positive COVID-19 cases, the NBA has determined how teams will handle both positive tests and broken rules. NBA players are subjected to daily COVID-19 testing while MLB players are tested every other day. And with social-distancing protocols in place, the NBA designed a plan that would reduce the chances it would whiff as MLB has.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to feel safe here, and I feel super safe,” Pelicans guard J.J. Redick said. “This is an environment here [that] I feel has been really good . . . . It’s hard to compare what baseball or the NFL is doing because it’s not what we’re doing. We’re doing something completely different. But obviously, we’re all watching to see how baseball and football work, given the uncertainty of next season as well.”
The NBA has penciled in Dec. 1 as the start of the 2020-21 season, but that date is subject to change for many reasons. The players’ union believes it gives the 22 teams participating in the Orlando restart too little time to recover from this season, which starts Thursday and is scheduled to go through mid-October. Commissioner Adam Silver has also said it isn’t sustainable to play in a campus bubble for all of next season because of the cost and extended time away from families. So the NBA will monitor how well the NFL and college football can host games this fall — with or without fans — before proceeding.
In the meantime, the league has created an alternative universe that hardly resembles how the rest of the country operates. When the NBA announced last week that zero out of 346 players tested positive for COVID-19, Rivers joked that “maybe we should send our plan to the White House.”
Those in NBA circles are not ready to run a victory lap, though. The league knows it could take one isolated case or a small series of events to completely unravel everything.
“What we’re doing is working — Adam, the staff and the league have done a phenomenal job with keeping us safe and healthy,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “But we can’t relax and let our guard down. You have to do it every day. You can’t have an off day. Fortunately, I have not seen anybody without a mask or not socialdistancing with non-members of our team.”
Unfortunately, other teams cannot say the same thing. About two weeks ago, someone called the campus hotline to report Lakers center Dwight Howard had not worn a mask. While he acknowledged the value in wearing one out of the campus bubble, Howard questioned the need for it inside the bubble, despite the Lakers’ repeated attempts to explain the rules. The incident showcased that the NBA formulated its protocols to address human behavior.
“You can tell there’s a lot of structure,” Clippers forward Joakim Noah said. “These are some of the sacrifices we have to make right now in order to play basketball. It’s not easy for anybody. But at the end of the day, we understand why we’re here. It’s a blessing to play basketball.”
Sky players wear warmup shirts bearing the name of police shooting victim Breonna Taylor and the words “Say her name” before their season opener Sunday.
Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA are serious about their virus protocols.