Professional athletes have been maintaining the momentum of fighting against police brutality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Los Angeles Sparks guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt endured through the tragedy of an officer-involved shooting and is using her personal knowledge to fight.
In 2013, Ruffin Pratt lost her cousin Julian Dawkins in an altercation with an off-duty sheriff’s deputy in Arlington, VA. He was shot and killed the same night their family was celebrating Ruffin-Pratt signing a contract with the Washington Mystics. The Deputy was sentenced to jail for voluntary manslaughter.
“The guy who killed my cousin got six years, he’s out already,” Ruffin-Pratt said.
From the experience, Ruffin-Pratt learned how support and momentum is essential. In wake of her cousin’s murder, people in the city of Alexandria, VA showed her family support and solidarity.
“They still with us and that’s what helped the most because it wasn’t just us fighting and like it isn’t now. Everybody’s fighting,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “Still to this day we get messages and different things about my cousin and people still support the movement.”
The hardest part of the justice system during that time was anticipating the arrest and trial of the deputy, according to Ruffin-Pratt.
“You got to wait for them to be arrested then you got to wait for the trial, you got to wait for a conviction and then it’s kind of like what now?” she said. “Like for most people this will blow over at some point, but for the families they’re still waiting.”
When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered in 2016, multiple WNBA teams wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts and hosted Media Blackouts after games to only discuss social justice issues during post-game press conferences. Ruffin-Pratt was a leader in the effort for the Washington Mystics. Although the WNBA fined the players involved in the demonstrations, Ruffin-Pratt was glad to see the team unify against police brutality.
“We all kind of stood together as a team, as an organization, and that was what was kind of important to me,” she said. “That everybody stood together, it didn’t matter what race, it didn’t matter where they were from, we all kind of just took that moment and used our platform for what was going on at that moment.”
The WNBA announced on Monday that the 2020 season will begin in late July, all games are expected to be hosted at the IMG Academy in Florida. Social justice will be a key component of the season, according to WNBPA president and Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
Several professional athletes have participated in and spearheaded marches and public demonstrations to combat racism and police brutality.
NBA All-Stars Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan marched with protestors in Compton. Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson spearheaded two “Walking in Unity” marches early in June, with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and other Warriors teammates in attendance. Seattle Storm players Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart spoke at a rally in Seattle hosted by pro athletes.
“now we see a lot of athletes, we see actors and actresses, businesspeople even speaking out. Even colleges and universities have put out statements, saying they stand with us,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to end something that’s going on in the world. Not just police brutality, but racism, and everything that comes with it. But it’s a start.”