Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud keep focus on police reform following win

Atkins, Cloud keep focus on police reform following win originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

When the Mystics defeated the Indiana Fever for just their second win of the season to move to 2-3 on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, two of the team’s top players did not want to discuss basketball.

Ariel Atkins only wanted to address questions regarding George Floyd and social justice. Natasha Cloud didn’t take any questions and had a 95-second statement focused on police reform. 

“Today marks the day that George Floyd was brutally murdered at the hands of police in which they were finally convicted,” Cloud said in her postgame availability. “I think in the last however many years there’s only been one conviction and that was this one so what I’m going to do is not talk about the game because the focus still needs to be on social reform and social justice, especially for black and brown communities in discriminatory policing towards black and brown communities.”

“I’d appreciate if we only talk about George Floyd and the things that we can do to really help our community,” Atkins said. “We’re really trying to get this policing act to get passed. Police reform is very important for Black and Brown communities, and I think that’s something that we should really focus on specifically today on the anniversary of his murder.”

Cloud and Atkins are two of the most vocal members on the team when it comes to calling for change. Last season Cloud sat out the entire campaign in the ‘wubble’ to focus on her personal social justice efforts. She wanted to get them off of the ground and also dictated that her motivations were bigger than basketball. 

Atkins was the vocal leader of the Mystics’ efforts for reform during the 2020 season. She was the only returning starter on the team. Atkins, along with the rest of the league, wore jerseys with Breonna Taylor’s name on the back and set out to have a season of change and activism.

On the night that the team demonstrated with shirts that spelled out another victim of a police shooting, Jacob Blake, and they led a league-wide boycott, Atkins was the one who spoke for the team.

The two reunited this season not wanting any of the momentum of last year to flame out. Social justice was still going to be a focus. For Atkins, that just meant finding a new way to find her footing in a ‘normal’ season. 

“This has been a stressful season for me overall, just because I’m trying to find my footing and how I help push, social justice for finding my personal way,” Atkins said. “And I know I haven’t been extremely vocal about it like I have in the past or even last year. But it’s just being emotional, raw; like how do I find ways to push our community forward? How do I use the resources that I have in DC, or even the resources that I have back home in Dallas? Like how do I find ways to help empower Black women in our Black communities and our Black and Brown sisters and brothers?

“Yes it’s emotional tonight, and I just want to give all my love and my prayer and my everything, condolences to George Floyd’s family.”

While not taking questions on Tuesday night, Cloud had a prepared statement. It reflected some of what Atkins said in acknowledging the significance of the day and also bringing attention to police reform laws. In many ways, it was similar to Cloud’s previous media blackout to address gun violence in D.C.

In this instance, Cloud asked for people to reach out to their state senators and ask for specific measures for police reform. 

“We need to ban chokeholds and other restrictive maneuvers. We need to end qualified immunity for all government actors. Don’t back down, keep raising your voice, tell Congress we need better accountability policies to meaningful address rampant systemic racism in policing. End racial and religious profiling. Prohibit no-knock warrants, Breonna Taylor, say her name. Mandate a federal standard that use of force only be used when necessary. Demilitarize our police, develop a national public database of police misconduct, strengthen the federal government’s ability to hold officers accountable for rights violations while on duty,” Cloud said. 

On the court, there could have been several topics to discuss on Washington’s win. Tina Charles had another big night by scoring 30 points, the defense looked cohesive among other things. It would have been a positive postgame session in a season that has seen some stumbling out of the gate. 

But it should serve as a reminder that for the Mystics it’s always bigger than basketball. On Tuesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team was not just focused on getting a win. 

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