Players hope to set an example for the youth through community leadership.
Moriah Jefferson scored six points and had five steals as the Lynx beat the Chicago Sky on Wednesday, July 6, but the matchup held a special significance for the guard beyond the win. Facing Jefferson on the opposing sideline was Candace Parker, the two-time WNBA MVP who inspired Jefferson at a young age.
Parker’s domination of the league as a Black woman had a big impact on Jefferson.
“Growing up, it was really important for me to be able to see people that looked like me, and not only the people of my color, but also women,” Jefferson said. “So growing up watching players like Candace Parker, and then now getting the chance to play against her, I always want to make sure that I got my best foot forward. You never know who’s watching.”
Jefferson is one of many Lynx players who advocate for causes on and off the court. Although they advocate for different issues, their activism has one thing in common: the desire to uplift the youth who may be watching them in the spotlight, like Jefferson did with Parker.
“It’s not just basketball, just being open to other opportunities because they’re going to get older and they’re going to be decision-makers,” Lynx guard-forward Aerial Powers said. “It matters what they see.”
Powers is the chair of Diversity & Inclusion Task Force for Team Liquid, a professional esports gaming organization, and uses this platform to create room for young women in a traditionally male- dominated field. Through her Twitch channel, Powers broadcasts herself playing games such as NBA 2K and Call of Duty. Both on and off the court, Powers inspires the younger generation by being her authentic self.
“I think it’s always good when kids of color can see women or anybody of color playing at a high level and doing things that they maybe aspire to do,” Powers said.
The Lynx, as a team, interact with the youth in the community, specifically those who are underrepresented. Carley Knox, Lynx president of business operations, said the team hosts special nights for the LGBTQ+ and Native American communities. It also held an event geared toward women in science, technology, engineering and math, and a game in honor of Title IX, the law that gave women increased opportunities in sports.
They hosted a Camp Day on July 2, when youth groups attended the game and had the chance to meet players.
Coach Cheryl Reeve said Camp Day was important to empower the youth, especially young women, to pursue opportunities that were initially not available to them.
“We’re going to be super excited about the thousands of young people that we’re going to impact today,” Reeve said. “Not only through our efforts on the basketball court, but just showing them what’s possible … understanding that women are equal to men, and this opportunity is the same.”
Camp Days are an extension of what the players do to impact the community beyond the arena. It’s important for the players to work individually with children.
“[Children] don’t necessarily get a lot of opportunities to be around athletes or get opportunities to be in camp,” Lynx guard Rachel Banham said.
Banham treasures the time she spends interacting with the youth, like when she plays one-on-one or other basketball games with them at Camp Day.
“That always is so much fun to me because I feel like I’m one of the kids and I feel like they kind of look at you, ‘Oh, you’re a normal human being,’ which is really cool,” Banham said.
The Lynx know how their celebrity can impact those who are watching them.
“These kids are the future generation,” Powers said. “They’re going to be leaders.”
They were once looking up to their own role models, and they know how important that example can be.