By THUC NHI NGUYEN STAFF WRITER JULY 1, 20206 AM
A month ago, when Candace Parker was driving through Beverly Hills and protesters were marching through the streets, the Sparks star turned to her 11-year-old daughter and attempted to explain the situation.
“People are protesting because we are upset about the continued violence/racism against African Americans in this country,” Parker said, posting about the exchange on Twitter later that day.
Lailaa Williams asked her mother if it was about the jogger — Ahmaud Arbery — they had talked about.
No, there was another man. George Floyd.
“Again?” the 11-year-old asked.
A month after protests for racial justice and police reform started commanding international attention, the conversations between Parker and her daughter remain ongoing and far-reaching. The WNBA champion, league MVP and successful NBA analyst wants Lailaa to know that as an African American girl, she too can do anything in this country, even if others say otherwise. Remember your values, Parker says. Don’t generalize.
There are good people out there.
“It’s so important for me to understand and for everybody to try to understand that yes, these little things that we’re harping on are a big deal because it stacks up and it adds up,” the five-time All-Star told The Times. “I would like to see our kids benefit from some of those little changes.”
Parker and the Sparks hope to help that happen through an expanded community relations platform that will now include a social justice pillar, the organization announced Wednesday. The program is aimed at combating systemic racism and sexism with a campaign called “Change Has No Offseason.” It will feature initiatives focused on voter registration and education and immigration reform, combined with the franchise’s existing projects focused on mental health and wellness, police and youth relations and women’s initiatives.
“We know this is not a short-term change. And this is not a short-term initiative for us,” Sparks president and COO Danita Johnson said. “We’re really trying to put a stake in the ground and really try to help the voices of our players and our organization be heard.”
The Sparks’ community outreach pillars already include women’s and girls’ empowerment, health and wellness, youth sports, and military/veteran affairs and first responders. The current social climate pushed the organization to do even more, Johnson said, as she sees more people seeking out resources for social justice.
Players discussed causes they were passionate about during video conferences. They were determined to not only talk about the issues, but to find a way to act.
For Parker, it was about voting. Johnson said the team is considering voter registration opportunities for parents at basketball camps.
“For so long, people weren’t sure whether entertainers, athletes, CEOs, different individuals should have a voice when it comes to social justice or political issues or different things like that,” Parker said. “For me personally, it’s so important. You have a voice whether you use it or not and I think at this point in time, I think everyone is understanding the value of using your platform and using it to promote change.”
The WNBA, which plans to start its coronavirus-delayed season in late July in Bradenton, Fla., announced June 15 it also intends to address social change during the season.
The Sparks are working to partner with organizations already working in voter registration and immigration reform to help elevate their programming. The team has three WNBA titles, but is not pretending to be experts on all social issues, Johnson said. It can, however, try to elevate those who are experts through the new campaign.
“There are a lot of small changes that have kind of laid stagnant,” Johnson said. “People are pushing for those to create the larger changes.”