On the court, 2020 marked an important season for Bridget Carleton of Chatham. Her team, the Minnesota Lynx, reached the WNBA semi-finals — the closest she's gotten to a championship, so far in her career.
But the 23 year-old guard says despite that, the most important part of her season was the steps the WNBA took toward ending racial injustice.
"Our number one goal and our number one focus was to have our season dedicated to the Say Her Name campaign and Black Lives Matter, and keep the attention on that and not, you know, not let people focus just on sports. There [were] bigger things to worry about," Carleton told CBC's Windsor Morning on Tuesday.
"We all took pride in that. And that was like the biggest reward, the biggest success, the best thing we could have done throughout the whole season."
At the end of August, the WNBA was forced to postpone three games after four of six teams — including Carletons' Minnesota Lynx — decided not to play their games in solidarity with the NBA protest following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
And while NBA players wore a variety racial justice slogans and mottos on their jerseys, all 144 WNBA players wore the name of Breonna Taylor. Earlier this year, police in Kentucky conducting a drug raid fatally shot Taylor, who was 26.
Carleton and other players had the opportunity to speak with Taylor's mother in a Zoom call. A "powerful" experience, recalled Carleton.
"You hear all these names of people that have been murdered or wrongfully killed from police brutality or from racist acts, things like this," she said. "But to connect with them on a personal level, to connect with their family members, to get to know who they were and really just, you know, learn about them as a person. And I think it just takes it that much deeper."
Carleton, one of four Canadians in the WNBA, added that given her profile as a professional athlete, she feels it's important for her to speak out against racism and other injustices.
"I think as an athlete, as someone who plays in the best league in the world, who has eyes on them, who is a role model to some, I have a right, I have a responsibility to voice my opinion, to share what I believe is right, what I think everyone should believe is right, and to fight for equality, to fight for the right thing," she said.
"I'm in the position to do that."