Nneka Ogwumike, a Los Angeles Sparks player and president of the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), defended professional athletes’ decisions to boycott recent games in protest of police brutality after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
“As athletes, we would be discrediting our essence if we didn't use that platform for good and for change,” Ogwumike said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
WNBPA President @Nnemkadi30 reacts to President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE criticizing the NBA for taking an unprecedented stand on civil justice: “We’re also citizens and the platforms that we have, just as the politicians do, need to be used to affect change in our communities" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/0eheFHHWVJ— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 30, 2020
Her comments came in response to President Trump derisively referring to the NBA as a “political organization” after players spoke out about police brutality and boycotted games. He added that the players' actions were “not a good thing.”
Ogwumike said on Sunday, however, that the issues “shouldn’t be political.”
“A lot of what we speak about, it shouldn't be political, but, unfortunately, the way that our country has kind of evolved, certain issues, certain human issues, have become political,” she added. “We are black women in the WNBA. A majority of us are black women, and, inherently, we are political, as we deal with racism and sexism.”
Sue Bird, a Seattle Storm player and the vice president of the WNBPA, similarly pushed back on criticism of players boycotting games.
"We heard some politicians don't like it when the sports world speaks out on social issues. What do you say to those critics?" NBC's Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddFulton County DA requests special grand jury in Trump election investigation The Memo: Is Trump the GOP's future or in rearview mirror? Carville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' MORE asked Bird on "Meet the Press."
"I mean, for me as a female athlete, the one thing that I've come to realize is we're judged on everything except our sport," Bird replied.
"We've been judged because we're Black, gay, because we're women. Nobody talks about us playing. So you fast-forward, you know, 10, 20 years of this, and we've developed an identity, and we're being authentic to it. And so for us, when people say stick to sports, it's kind of like, 'Yeah, 20 years ago we tried, and you wouldn't let us, and now you're saying that?' So it makes no sense to me," she added.
The WNBA has often taken a stance against police brutality, with players sharing the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. The WNBA dedicated its first weekend of games this season to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Following the shooting of Blake, athletes across professional sports boycotted games last week after Milwaukee Bucks players decided not to play against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.