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The Lynx were trying to run a COVID-19-induced virtual training camp when George Floyd was murdered in south Minneapolis.
That was a year ago. So, after finishing practice at their training facility Tuesday, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talked about social change before anything basketball related. A lot has happened since the day Floyd died, she said.
More is to come.
"There is so much in terms of what needs to happen, but I think there's been actionable change that I'm seeing in some cities that are changing something as simple as unarmed officers are the ones that are going to make the traffic stop that involved an expired tag, an air freshener, that sort of thing," Reeve said. "So there has been real illumination of the ways in which the system is flawed and needs change."
The Lynx were ahead of their time back in 2016 when captains Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus stood up for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of Philando Castile. Since then both the WNBA and the NBA have come up to speed.
The NBA as a league, and the players unions for both the NBA and WNBA players are involved in calling for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; Wednesday the WNBA's players union executives and the union's board of player representation will met with New Jersey senator Cory Booker.
Reeve said perhaps her strongest memory of last season was the sense of commitment to social change within the WNBA bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The players dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor, publicly backing the Black Lives Matter movement. The players took a two-day pause during the season after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. And WNBA players campaigned for Raphael Warnock, who was opposing Kelly Loeffler for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia after Loeffler — also then a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream — spoke out against the BLM movement.
"Being in the bubble together as a league, we had a chance to just do so much more and amplify, in a very significant way, the need for criminal justice reform, the need for reform in our policing," Reeve said. "So we've had a chance to really educate ourselves in the ways that you can enact change. … We weren't going there just to play basketball. That was secondary. They were going there on a mission to, collectively, use our voices."
Working to pass the bill that bears Floyd's name is a start. The Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns is a member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition advocating for the bill. Here in Minnesota the Wolves and Lynx are working with the Minneapolis Foundation to promote social justice and safe communities.
"There is police reform, which is very real," Reeve said. "But then I think there is also impacting our communities. Bringing to light, for our communicates, the systemic inequities."
The next step? "The actual reform part of it," Reeve said. "Understanding legislation that's on the books, what needs changed, making sure elective officials are bringing about those changes. … Voting is one way, and now, after you vote, it's your ability to understand legislation that currently exists, and any change you want and how to go about getting that change."
Soon the Lynx will return to their season. With Napheesa Collier back with the team and a weeklong break to practice, Minnesota will try to change the direction of a season that has started 0-3. But Tuesday Reeve was talking about more important change.