Former Temple superstar reflects on WNBA’s activism

The WNBA painted “Black Lives Matter” on the court during games and the players wore the name of Breonna Taylor on their jerseys.

Candice Dupree dribbles the ball down the court during the Owls' game against Saint Joseph's University at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 17, 2006. | ARCHIVE / TEMPLE ATHLETICS

Candice Dupree averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season.

But when she looks back on the 2020 WNBA season, those statistics aren’t what she’ll remember, she said. 

The Indiana Fever forward and former Temple University women’s basketball superstar spent the season taking part in the #SayHerName movement, which took place inside the league’s social distancing “bubble” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dupree said.

The #SayHerName movement was started in 2014 by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectional and Social Policy Studies to bring “awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence,” according to the AAPF website.  

During the season, the WNBA painted “Black Lives Matter” on the court for games and allowed players to protest during the national anthem. The Fever chose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem in a game on Aug. 18, The Hartford Courant reported. 

Dupree and her teammates also wore the name of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was shot in a “no-knock” search warrant by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, on the back of their jerseys.

“African American women get kind of lost in the mix,” Dupree said. “All you see on TV, usually, is Black men as the focus of social injustice. So we just wanted to let people know, ‘Hey, say her name too.”’

Dupree played for the Owls from 2003-06, setting records as Temple’s all-time leader in field goal percentage and the third-most points in program history. She had her jersey retired by the team in 2016.

She’s been named to seven WNBA All-Star teams and won a WNBA Championship in 2014 with the Phoenix Mercury. 

The WNBA resumed their season with a “bubble” in Bradenton, Florida, after delaying the start of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 3. The league dedicated the season to Black Lives Matter, #SayHerName and other movements recognizing victims of police brutality, according to a July 6 statement.

“We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement on the league’s website. 

On Aug. 28, WNBA players, along with other professional athletes, protested by refusing to play their games in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, CNN reported. 

“We try to let people know we’re more than just basketball players,” Dupree said. “We try to set a good example for the younger generation and old generations, ‘Hey it is not okay, all of the social injustices going on in this world.”’ 

Dawn Staley, who was Dupree’s coach when she played for Temple, paid attention to the statements the WNBA and Dupree were making, she said. 

“I’m proud obviously, but I think it takes a lot of courage, consistency, laying things on the line, it takes a lot of tough and thick skin to get through moments,” added Staley, the current head of University of South Carolina women’s basketball. “The WNBA players let it be known that social injustice will not be tolerated.”

Temple University women’s basketball graduate student forward Shantay Taylor said the WNBA players taking a stand to support social justice “means a lot.” 

“Us as women, in general, we’re discriminated against a lot,” Taylor added. “So, for them not being afraid and stepping up for what’s right, I think that’s very important. It shows younger girls not to be afraid and stand up for what you believe in.”

Dupree believes the WNBA established a movement within their league and is focused on helping it to continue beyond this season, she said. 

“It’s Black people as a whole that are being affected by social injustice,” Dupree added. “We established that as a movement this summer and keep going forward.”

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