After months of delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, and significant discussions with everyone involved, the WNBA announced Monday, June 15, that it will officially return to play in late July.
The plan itself features a 22-game regular season followed by a traditional playoff format, according to a release, and will take place at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. That also will be the site for league-wide training camps, which are expected to start in early July.
“We are finalizing a season start plan to build on the tremendous momentum generated in the league during the offseason and have used the guiding principles of health and safety of players and essential staff to establish necessary and extensive protocols,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a release. “We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan.”
All players will receive their full pay and benefits during the season. No fans will be in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a prepared statement Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said while the team is excited to learn more details about the upcoming season, it won’t lose sight of the social issues it has been so vocal about in the past.
“Our team is committed to continuing the conversation around the racial injustice issues that permeate our society,” Reeve said in a statement. “It is important that we use our voices to amplify the inequities that black and brown people face every day and we will work tirelessly to address these issues, particularly, issues pertaining to police brutality, especially in Minneapolis.”
That commitment will continue at a league level too as the WNBA said it plans to build on its commitment to social justice and will support players in launching a bold social justice platform as a call to action to drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change. “The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America,” Engelbert said in a release. “It is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change.”
This is an important time for the WNBA, according to Women’s National Basketball Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike, as it gives the players a platform to amplify their collective voices in an effort to enact change.
“We have always been at the forefront of initiatives with strong support of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, the LGBTQ+ community, gun control, voting rights, #MeToo, mental health and the list goes on,” Ogwumike said in a release. “This is not only necessary from a humanitarian perspective. It may be one of the biggest opportunities that this league has and will ever have.”