The Best Part of Layshia Clarendon’s Game? ‘Fearlessness’

In the courtroom, Layshia Clarendon has change into the chief of a younger Liberty staff coursing via a season with many surprising challenges. As a govt committee member of the W.N.B.A.’s gamers’ union, Clarendon has additionally change into a voice for social justice for the league this yr.

Clarendon is averaging a career-high 11.7 factors a sport, however, the Liberty is 2-15 and in final place within the Eastern Conference. The staff is taking part in this season without a number of key gamers who determined to decide out of this season as a result of issues over the coronavirus. Sabrina Ionescu, their star No. 1 decide within the 2020 draft, has been out since she sprained her ankle within the third sport of the season.

Clarendon, who’s of their eighth season, missed all however 9 video games final yr, with the Connecticut Sun, as a result of a proper ankle harm. The ankle “gets stiff every now and then,” Clarendon mentioned, however, they’ve nonetheless been capable of function an important veteran presence for a younger Liberty staff that started the yr with seven rookies.

But this yr is about extra than simply statistics for Clarendon. The W.N.B.A. has devoted its season to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black girl who was shot and killed by the police in Louisville, Ky., and the Say Her Name marketing campaign, which focuses on Black girls and women affected by police brutality and violence. Clarendon is one of the gamer’s main the W.N.B.A.’s social justice initiatives.

The New York Times talked to Clarendon about taking part in fearlessly, the challenges of the tight sports schedule this season, and the way, they mentioned, social justice actions typically overlook Black girls.

Q: What has life within the bubble been like for you?

Clarendon: It’s up and down, relying on the second. The schedule is admittedly hectic. I don’t assume I anticipated it to be this difficult to constantly play three video games per week, in order that’s been actually powerful from a pure restoration standpoint.

There’s simply not quite a bit of downtime or day without work simply because we’re taking part in so typically.

How do you address the busy schedule?

Normal ice baths and restoration stuff that I do each season. It’s undoubtedly been an extra mentally difficult season. Obviously, with COVID happening, the state of the world, and police murdering folks left and proper, it’s been extra emotional and nonsecular than bodily most of the time. You can sleep for 9 hours and nonetheless get up and really feel the load of the world in your shoulders.

What do you assume is the very best half of your sport?

I’d say tenacity and fearlessness. It doesn’t matter if I get blocked, I’m going to go proper again within the paint once more towards the identical participant who blocked me on the earlier play.

How did you develop that tenacity and fearlessness?

Practice ending quite a bit, making an attempt to get into folks’ bodies and create contact. I believe it’s a mindset, too. If you’re actually early on within the league and also you get your stuff thrown into the stands, it’s embarrassing. But should you don’t get crossed-up on this league or your shot blocked in a sport or one thing actually unhealthy in sport, then you definitely in all probability aren’t taking part in arduous sufficient and you actually don’t have your coronary heart in it.

This league is so good, it’s simply going to occur. Part of that could be a mindset of realizing that while you go up towards Sue Bird or A’ja Wilson, they will block you. You are additionally going to get them. It’s about taking a look at it as a problem and a chance quite than a: ‘Oh, I got blocked. That’s so embarrassing.’ No one needs to be on the flawed facet of “SportsCenter.”

As a member of the management committee, you helped lead the day of reflection final week. What went into the choice to name it a day of reflection as an alternative of a boycott or strike? (The league missed two days of video games final week after its gamers joined an N.B.A. work stoppage to protest the police capturing of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot within the again a number of instances by the police in Kenosha, Wis. )

After we had a gamers assembly we realized simply how exhausted everybody was. It was extra like we wanted that day. I believe very a lot of it was standing in solidarity with our N.B.A. brothers. You may see it in folks’ faces that day on TV how exhausted and heartbroken everybody was.

Yes, we had been putting. Yes, we had been preventing injustice, however, we’re exhausted and we’re drained. We are calling it for a day of reflection and a day of mourning. We wanted the time to take a step again.

What would you wish to see the W.N.B.A. do subsequent?

Voting goes to be a giant one which we are attempting to determine a method round it proper now. We may put on a ‘vote’ masks, which might be nice consciousness, however, there needs to be some longer sport technique behind how we’re going to have interaction folks. We are going to actually concentrate on voting and the work we have now been doing with Say Her Name, which I believe can’t be understated.

At a time when Black girls proceed to be erased from the bigger dialog of police brutality and violence, that’s why our work is especially vital. While, sure, we additionally stand with Jacob Blake and his household and all of the lads who’ve been murdered on this motion, it’s a fixed reminder of how girls have to decide on between erasing themselves to face up for his or her race or standing up for ladies, standing up for their very own girls.

That’s the fixed battle I really feel like we’re at all times in. I don’t need us to get away from Saying Her Name as a result of that’s the entire level of the motion and why we got here right here. It’s unhappy that we at all times have to decide on between standing up for our males and standing up for ourselves, as a result of who stands up for us? No one.

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