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WNBA star Ariel Atkins has no regrets over T-shirts printed with seven bullet holes protest

Washington Mystics star Ariel Atkins tells CNN Sport's Don Riddell of her passionate belief in speaking out "on the things that I feel are wrong in this world."

Posted: Oct 3, 2020 9:21 AM
Updated: Oct 3, 2020 9:21 AM

After boycotting their game against Atlanta Dream in late August, players of the WNBA's Washington Mystics team took to the court wearing white T-shirts printed with seven bullet holes in Jacob Blake's honor.

Mystics star Ariel Atkins says the T-shirts might have been "a little vulgar to some people," but that she and her teammates had been determined "to give a very visual image" of what had happened to Blake.

"It's tough because people are constantly telling us you have no right to speak. It's like, what? I have no right to speak because I play a game? How does that even make sense?" Atkins told CNN Sport's Don Riddell, as she noted how shaken some of her teammates were before staging the protest.

"I'm a human first. I'm going to speak out on the things that I feel are wrong in this world," added Atkins. "There might be some sacrifices as far as money, as far as fans, as far as sponsorships and different things.

"But, at the end of the day, you want people that represent you and represent what you believe in to be working with you."

'How do we empower our own people?'

Along with many other players from the league, Atkins has been a leading voice in calling for justice for victims of police brutality. As well as Blake, Atkins was left equally angry and confused after Breonna Taylor's death.

Taylor, an emergency room technician, died from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in a botched raid of her home in March.

The city of Louisville has since agreed to pay $12 million to the family of Taylor and institute sweeping police reforms in a settlement of the family's wrongful death lawsuit.

None of the officers was charged with her March 13 killing. Ex-Detective Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment because some of the shots he fired allegedly entered a neighboring apartment, where three people were present. He has pleaded not guilty

READ: WNBA star marries Jonathan Irons after helping overturn his prison sentence

The 24-year-old Atkins says she doesn't want to "hate" on anyone, preferring to focus on empowering her community.

"If this is how we're gonna be treated in this country, we've seen it time and time again, how do we make sure that we're uplifting our people?" Atkins who spoke to CNN last month.

"How do we empower our own people so that we won't have to be screaming on the street to tell people that our lives matter?

"It's a lot of mixed emotions because, like I said, I don't know how to feel because that was not my daughter. That was not my sister.

"But she was someone important to me, not only because she looked like me, but because that could be me. That could be my sister. That could have been my mom."

READ: Obama pops up as virtual spectator at NBA Finals

'We know what is going on'

The WNBA has been a strong supporter of the Say Her Name movement, which raises awareness for Black female victims of police violence.

Atkins says the tribute is as much for Taylor's family and hopes such a symbolic gesture will resonate with people.

"If anything, I think it's showing people that we know what is going on. We see it every day and we want people to hear these stories," the 24-year-old said.

"The crazy part about it is it's not just Breonna Taylor's story. It's so many other women that have been abused by people of authority and have spoken out about it and nothing's happened.

"I don't want to say we're not going to solve racism overnight. This is an ongoing battle. It's been going on for way before our time. But if anything, if we can raise awareness and let everyone in our community know that we know what is going on."

From Formula One star Lewis Hamilton to English Premier League footballers taking a knee before games start, athletes around the world have been finding their voices amid the Black Lives Matter movement, with LeBron James also leading the way in the NBA.

Atkins says these athletes are standing on the shoulders of those who came before them and is convinced the next generation of sportspeople will be inspired to carry on the fight.

"We're not the first. We won't be the last. There were so many athletes before us that were blacklisted, that were not welcomed back into their sport, was stripped of their medals, stripped of their honors for speaking out about things that they believe in," she said, referring to Colin Kaepernick, who is still without an NFL team since 2017 after kneeling during the national anthem.

"I have to be optimistic. I mean, if anything, we're talking about hanging on to hope here, fighting for hope. We're really fighting for hope," added Atkins.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19560229
Hinds18674385
Harrison16512276
Rankin12595262
Jackson12451217
Lee9663160
Madison9400195
Jones7891145
Forrest7140136
Lauderdale6784225
Lowndes6008137
Lamar584480
Lafayette5707113
Washington5159128
Bolivar4594120
Oktibbeha439991
Panola426892
Pearl River4116128
Warren4114113
Pontotoc407368
Marshall399492
Monroe3980126
Union392873
Neshoba3767166
Lincoln3464100
Hancock339973
Leflore3358118
Sunflower317185
Tate300874
Pike298393
Scott292567
Alcorn290360
Itawamba288871
Yazoo283862
Tippah275665
Copiah274557
Coahoma272766
Simpson271778
Prentiss268658
Leake251770
Wayne251340
Marion250778
Covington247878
Grenada245876
Adams233277
George230645
Newton224751
Winston220275
Jasper211844
Tishomingo211765
Attala206269
Chickasaw200650
Holmes181670
Clay178149
Stone171429
Tallahatchie169839
Clarke168671
Calhoun156428
Smith151831
Yalobusha142936
Greene126833
Walthall123540
Noxubee122729
Perry121434
Montgomery121237
Lawrence119321
Carroll117623
Amite110832
Webster109929
Jefferson Davis100531
Tunica98623
Claiborne97729
Benton93124
Humphreys91626
Kemper89522
Quitman77014
Franklin75519
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61427
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491110

Reported Deaths: 9831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson706291356
Mobile35894721
Madison32255442
Tuscaloosa23996409
Montgomery22462494
Shelby21820215
Baldwin19670274
Lee14900150
Morgan13599249
Calhoun13175285
Etowah13143319
Marshall11226206
Houston10048259
Elmore9337183
Limestone9335134
Cullman8869179
St. Clair8783220
Lauderdale8581210
DeKalb8429174
Talladega7481163
Walker6504251
Jackson6477102
Autauga620389
Blount6086125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5230102
Dale4621106
Russell401831
Franklin397876
Covington3956106
Chilton384298
Escambia377172
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke342949
Dallas3397141
Chambers3392108
Pike293071
Lawrence281384
Marion280894
Winston246166
Bibb244260
Geneva238670
Marengo233354
Pickens223954
Barbour209951
Hale208868
Fayette199756
Butler195165
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe165938
Randolph163140
Washington156634
Crenshaw143554
Clay143354
Macon140943
Cleburne136839
Lamar131732
Lowndes130648
Wilcox120825
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98431
Coosa87823
Greene87032
Choctaw54823
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