commentary + critique

from tamryn spruill

Monarchs Stay Undefeated in Sacramento

Monarchs Stay Undefeated in Sacramento

By Tamryn Spruill When Joe Maloof announced in November 2009 that his family would be surrendering ownership of the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, he claimed to be "bummed" about the decision and told reporters that the move was necessitated by the ownership group's need to focus full-throttle on the NBA's Kings. "This is our team that won a championship," Maloof told Aileen Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. "We love the Monarchs. But all of our efforts have to be on getting the Kings back to where they once were, and that takes our full commitment." Love, Maloof-style, apparently means forsaking your lone winning franchise for a struggling one, leaving players, coaches, staff and Maloof Sports and Entertainment employees out of work. The real dagger in the hearts of the players was the timing.   At the time the Maloof family ended the franchise, the Monarchs in 12 seasons had amassed a 224-200 regular-season record and piled on a 24-19 tally in the playoffs.  The year the Monarchs won the WNBA title, the Kings were bounced in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Seattle SuperSonics. In 2006, when the Monarchs came up five points shy in a heated five-game series of repeating their title reign, the Kings were ejected from the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs (again, in the first round). The Kings, finishing ninth or lower in the Western Conference standings since their first-round loss to the Spurs in 2006, have not returned to the NBA Playoffs. Even worse, the Kings have not finished above .500 in any season since the Maloofs shut down the Monarchs. The Kings' regular-season record between the 2008-09 and 2019-20 NBA seasons, the years since the Maloofs killed off the Monarchs is an embarrassing 335 wins and 623 losses, with no postseason record to report. WHERE IS SHE NOW? Yolanda Griffith, cover girl of the Monarchs' 2000 season schedule, was named 1999 WNBA MVP, six seasons before her award-winning game helped the team to the 2005 championship. In March,...

1: S2E1: A look into the WNBA’s 25th-anniversary season with Commissioner Cathy Engelbert

1: S2E1: A look into the WNBA’s 25th-anniversary season with Commissioner Cathy Engelbert

Twenty-five years since its inaugural tipoff, the WNBA is still here: "impossible shot after impossible shot after impossible shot." In the runup to the historic 2021 WNBA season, the league has provided The Hard Screen with a first look into the ways the league will pay homage to the past and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert discusses how the season is an investment in the league's next 25 years. Count It sound clip is copyrighted to the WNBA and provided with permission. Get the latest "screen" and sign up for the HARD SCREEN Newsletter at: https://thehardscreen.net/.

An Exclusive Look into the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary Season

An Exclusive Look into the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary Season

By Tamryn Spruill We have a high level of competition, players emerge as stars, we build household names and we build these rivalries. That’s how WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will measure success of the league’s 25th-anniversary season. Expected to tip off in mid-May, plans for the 2021 WNBA season signal an edging toward normalcy -- as much as health-and-safety protocols and vaccination rollout will allow. "Success, number one, is that we have a healthy season for our players, staff and fans,” Engelbert says during a phone call on Friday. “Number two is that we elevate the WNBA and the value of these professional working athletes in society.” The players' value, as the 2020 season of pandemic and social justice protest attests, is of leadership and transformation. A fight for justice for Breonna Taylor’s family in collaboration with the #SayHerName campaign branched into a fight against Kelly Loeffler’s bid for reelection in the Georgia Senate race. The "Vote Warnock" shirts players wore during the season amplified Rev. Raphael Warnock’s campaign. By winning, both Georgia Senate seats were flipped from red to blue and Loeffler, who had faced a barrage of calls to sell the Atlanta Dream following her vehement opposition to the WNBA’s alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement, ultimately did just that. Renee Montgomery, who last played for the Dream in 2019 and who was one of Loeffler’s most outspoken critics, became a minority owner of the Dream after announcing her retirement. But the WNBA in 2021 is about moving forward -- ensuring success this season as an investment in the league's future, while paying proper homage to the figures who wrote the early pages of the its history. Count It is the season’s motto. And without naming names, the WNBA is tallying the myriad adversity-destroying triumphs of its quarter-century existence, some of which are highlighted in the league's 25th anniversary brand ad narrated by Lisa Leslie. EXCLUSIVE: 'Impossible shot...

9: S1E9: The Cry for Justice Continues

9: S1E9: The Cry for Justice Continues

On the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor's murder by Louisville police officers, we review the changes that have happened in the wake of her death, explain why justice still has not been served and replay an episode that originally aired on July 31, 2020 about the relentless grief inflicted on families whose loved ones have been killed by police and how that pain is compounded by impunity. WARNING: THIS EPISODE CONTAINS VIVID DESCRIPTIONS OF POLICE VIOLENCE AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL LISTENERS. Get the latest "screen" and sign up for the HARD SCREEN Newsletter at: https://thehardscreen.net/.

8: S1E8: Girl, Bye: The Unforgivable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

8: S1E8: Girl, Bye: The Unforgivable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

Now that Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler has been voted out of a Senate seat she was never voted into, does this mean she returns to WNBA ownership as if nothing ever happened? Unlikely, if the players, who supported her rival, Rev. Raphael Warnock, in the race, have anything to do with it. Many of Loeffler's "sins" during the election, which Warnock won, reflect a racist ideology that runs counter to what most players in the WNBA stand for and, therefore, are unforgiveable. Get the latest "screen" and sign up for the HARD SCREEN Newsletter at: https://thehardscreen.net/.

The Unforgiveable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

The Unforgiveable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

By Tamryn Spruill Kelly Loeffler was a businesswoman and WNBA team co-owner first. She became a politician second, by appointment to the U.S. Senate for the state of Georgia. Her opposition to the league backing the players' dedication of the 2020 season to social justice was viewed widely as a political stunt to appeal to her voting base. The players, while supporting the #SayHerName campaign and seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, kicked Loeffler where it counts -- right in the middle of her political ambitions. By supporting her rival, Rev. Raphael Warnock, the players gave Warnock's campaign a boost that helped him win enough votes in November to force a runoff election, which he won in historic fashion on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, becoming the first Black person to represent Georgia as a senator. Now that Loeffler has been voted out of the Senate seat she was never voted into in the first place, does this mean she returns to WNBA ownership as if nothing ever happened? Unlikely, if the players have anything to do with it, because many of Loeffler's "sins" during the election cycle reflect a racist ideology that runs counter to what most players in the WNBA stand for and, therefore, are unforgiveable.  Cavorting with known white supremacists at rallies should have been enough to force Loeffler's banishment from the league, just as Donald Sterling was ousted from the NBA following the disclosure of his history of making racist statements. Since that didn't happen, it looks like LeBron James might be ready to step up and relieve the WNBA of its #KKKelly problem.

Without WNBA Players, There’d Be No Warnock vs. Loeffler Runoff in Georgia

Without WNBA Players, There’d Be No Warnock vs. Loeffler Runoff in Georgia

By Tamryn Spruill "Although the majority of players in the WNBA rarely get credit for their societal contributions, their actions are far-reaching and ever-present," Tamryn Spruill writes for Harper's BAZAAR. "The t-shirt campaign they started during the 2020 season to support Warnock spun off into a “Vote Georgia” shirt by BreakingT, the proceeds of which benefit Rock the Vote and the NAACP. Kristen Wiig even wore the shirt while hosting Saturday Night Live on December 19." From transforming Rev. Raphael Warnock's "low-profile candidacy into one that earned enough votes to force a runoff election" against Atlanta Dream co-owner and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whose opposition to Black Lives Matter inspired players during the 2020 WNBA season to "kick her in her political ambitions" by supporting her rival," according to Spruill, to increasing LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance over the last decade, the woman behind The Hard Screen takes a hard look at the undeniable social and political contributions WNBA players, and the WNBA generally, have made. "In a political era populated by elected officials who have demonstrated themselves to be too self-interested or cowardly to speak up, the willingness of WNBA players to speak truth to power strikes an impression," Spruill also writes. "Their dogged commitment to the fight for racial and social justice exemplifies just how effective activism can be. It models the power of people working together toward shared goals and the lasting impact such work can produce." Through it all, the players let their fashion do the talking.

Kristen Wiig Looks Just Peachy in ‘Vote Georgia’ Hoodie on SNL

Kristen Wiig Looks Just Peachy in ‘Vote Georgia’ Hoodie on SNL

By Tamryn Spruill  When Kristen Wiig took her final bow alongside musical guest Dua Lipa and actor Maya Rudolph on the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, she was wearing a "Vote Georgia" hoodie, presumably using her vast platform to encourage Georgia residents to cast their ballots in the Jan. 5 run-off election that will decide the state's senators. Moreover, the winners of the run-off races for Georgia's two Senate seats will determine which party, the Republicans or the Democrats, will control the U.S. Senate. On one side of the ballot, Rev. Raphael Warnock (Dem.) is in a run-off against Atlanta Dream co-owner-turned-Senate-appointee Kelly Loeffler (Rep.); on the other, Jon Ossoff (Dem.) is battling incumbent David Perdue (Rep.). No matter the outcome on Jan. 5, however, WNBA players made an indelible mark on Warnock's campaign by wearing "Vote Warnock" t-shirts before games and in media appearances. The action,  in response to Loeffler's opposition to the league's support of the players' social justice initiatives, revitalized Warnock's campaign with infusions of attention and cash, pushing him to earn the most votes of the four candidates on Election Day, Nov. 3. Although mainstream sports media is disinclined to recognize the majority 80%-Black women of the WNBA who spearheaded these initiatives, their contributions to spurring social change in 2020 are undeniable and, as the cheetah-dressed Wiig proves, far-reaching. "Vote Georgia" apparel is officially-licensed by the WNBPA and proceeds benefit Rock the Vote and the NAACP. Wiig debuts on Christmas Day as Barbara Minerva AKA Cheetah in the Patty Jenkins-directed film Wonder Woman 1984. Further reading: Natasha Cloud: ‘We are the deciding people on who runs our country’ WNBA players react to the Biden-Harris victory Natasha Cloud: ‘Vote like your life depends on it’  

WNBA Players React to the Biden-Harris Victory

WNBA Players React to the Biden-Harris Victory

By Tamryn Spruill On Saturday, and four days after Election Day on Nov. 3, major news outlets declared Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris the winner of the 2020 presidential race. Biden and Harris were declared victorious after winning Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes, which put them at 279 of the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. Incumbent Donald Trump, nearing the end of a volatile, destructive, tantrum-filled four years in the Oval Office, is the clear loser, with 214 electoral college votes. Unlike the champion athletes he has publicly degraded and denied celebratory visits to the White House -- athletes who most often practice good sportsmanship after a loss, and even shake the hands of the victors before leaving the court -- Trump has refused to concede. But that hasn't stopped these same athletes from reveling in the Biden-Harris victory or sharing their feelings about it. Here's a roundup from around the WNBA: For Natasha Cloud, a 2019 champion with the Washington Mystics and an outspoken activist, the day was emotional. Cloud opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to throw her full energy into social justice reform. Candace Parker, future Hall of Famer of the Los Angeles Sparks and Pat Summitt protégé, remarked on the potential for the Biden-Harris presidency to return the country to a semblance of normalcy. In a subsequent tweet, Parker examined the impact of Harris' election to the vice presidency on the life of her 11-year-old daughter, Lailaa. Harris becomes the first woman, Black woman and Asian woman elected vice president. Layshia Clarendon, longtime activist and first vice president of the players' union, retweeted a message on the significance of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris identifying systemic racism as pressing issues facing the country. For Swin Cash, two-time WNBA champion and VP of basketball operations/team development for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets, the election result was a call to action -- in...

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