Mystics star Ariel Atkins says the T-shirts might have been “a little vulgar to some people,” but that she and her teammates had been determined “to give a very visual image” of what had happened to Blake.
“It’s tough because people are constantly telling us you have no right to speak. It’s like, what? I have no right to speak because I play a game? How does that even make sense?” Atkins told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell, as she noted how shaken some of her teammates were before staging the protest.
“I’m a human first. I’m going to speak out on the things that I feel are wrong in this world,” added Atkins. “There might be some sacrifices as far as money, as far as fans, as far as sponsorships and different things.
“But, at the end of the day, you want people that represent you and represent what you believe in to be working with you.”
‘How do we empower our own people?’
Along with many other players from the league, Atkins has been a leading voice in calling for justice for victims of police brutality. As well as Blake, Atkins was left equally angry and confused after Breonna Taylor’s death.
The 24-year-old Atkins says she doesn’t want to “hate” on anyone, preferring to focus on empowering her community.
“If this is how we’re gonna be treated in this country, we’ve seen it time and time again, how do we make sure that we’re uplifting our people?” Atkins who spoke to CNN last month.
“How do we empower our own people so that we won’t have to be screaming on the street to tell people that our lives matter?
“It’s a lot of mixed emotions because, like I said, I don’t know how to feel because that was not my daughter. That was not my sister.
“But she was someone important to me, not only because she looked like me, but because that could be me. That could be my sister. That could have been my mom.”
‘We know what is going on’
Atkins says the tribute is as much for Taylor’s family and hopes such a symbolic gesture will resonate with people.
“If anything, I think it’s showing people that we know what is going on. We see it every day and we want people to hear these stories,” the 24-year-old said.
“The crazy part about it is it’s not just Breonna Taylor’s story. It’s so many other women that have been abused by people of authority and have spoken out about it and nothing’s happened.
“I don’t want to say we’re not going to solve racism overnight. This is an ongoing battle. It’s been going on for way before our time. But if anything, if we can raise awareness and let everyone in our community know that we know what is going on.”
From Formula One star Lewis Hamilton to English Premier League footballers taking a knee before games start, athletes around the world have been finding their voices amid the Black Lives Matter movement, with LeBron James also leading the way in the NBA.
Atkins says these athletes are standing on the shoulders of those who came before them and is convinced the next generation of sportspeople will be inspired to carry on the fight.
“I have to be optimistic. I mean, if anything, we’re talking about hanging on to hope here, fighting for hope. We’re really fighting for hope,” added Atkins.