Mystics guard Natasha Cloud and center LaToya Sanders will not play the 2020 WNBA season, the team announced Monday.
Cloud said in a statement that she wants to focus on her activism in the Black Lives Matter movement, while Sanders cited her health as her primary reason to sit out the season.
“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career but I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season,” Cloud said in a statement. “There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead continue the fight for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”
Cloud has been outspoken in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the wake of the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. She was front and center at Friday’s Juneteenth march organized by Mystics and Wizards players.
The WNBA plans to play a 22-game season starting in late July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, near Tampa. Florida has become one of the biggest hot spots for the coronavirus in the U.S., particularly in the Tampa area in recent days, which may have swayed Sanders away from playing.
“This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what’s best for my health and family,” Sanders said. “I wish my teammates and the entire Mystics family the best this season and I will continue to watch and support them.”
Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault said the organization respects both players’ decisions.
“We respect and support Natasha’s decision to prioritize her life and goals,” Thibault said in a statement. “Her commitment to social justice issues is of utmost importance to her and, therefore, to the Mystics organization. We will continue to be partners with her and all of our players on their commitment to social justice reform as we go forward into this season and beyond.”
Both players’ absence in 2020 will hurt the Mystics’ chances of repeating as WNBA champions. But it appears that they will still have defending league MVP Elena Delle Donne, reigning WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and recently acquired center Tina Charles at their disposal.
However, players have until Thursday to decide whether they will opt out of the season. Cloud’s and Sanders’ decisions not to play in 2020 means they will forgo their salaries for the year.
Other WNBA players to forego the 2020 season for various reasons include Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones and Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery.