Washington Mystics star Natasha Cloud has decided to skip the 2020 WNBA season. Converse has decided to pay her salary.
“There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete,” Cloud said in a statement, via NBC 4 in Washington. “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.”
The WNBA allows players to skip the season without penalty beyond forfeited pay. Cloud, who was due to earn $117,000 this season, does not qualify for payment if she chooses not to play, because she is not considered to be at risk of severe complications if she contracts COVID-19.
“Converse has immense respect for Natasha Cloud’s decision to forgo the WNBA season,” the company said in a statement. “These systemic racial justice issues are bigger than basketball. To be able to put her career and passion on hold in order to devote her energy, voice and platform to change demonstrates her integrity and strength. We are proud to have her on the Converse team, are humbled to match her forfeited players salary and look forward to working together with Natasha on these issues as well as supporting her vision in this space.”
The gesture raises the question of whether and to what extent companies will help pay the salaries of NFL players or other pro athletes who choose not to play this season or whether there will be a broader effort to raise money for players who choose not to play. Much of the outcome depends on the number of players who choose not to play.
Appearing on Tuesday’s #PFTPM, Rodney Harrison suggested that players who already have made plenty of money may be more inclined to skip the season. Many of those players are still earning significant salaries, making the decision to skip a year more costly. Also, players who are concerned about statistics and legacies may have a hard time pressing pause on their careers.
Regardless, Converse’s willingness to cover Natasha Cloud’s salary becomes another angle to the manner in which decisions will be made in other sports, including the NFL.