New York Liberty start to make their way to the WNBA bubble

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Members of the New York Liberty have descended upon IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida as the WNBA prepare to open a 22-game season.

WNBA teams have begun their Floridan descent, as all but one of them have started to make their way to Bradenton’s IMG Academy for the opening of their 2020 season. The league is set to play a 22-game season headquartered in Florida after their May opening was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many players have taken to social media to showcase their new surroundings and representatives of the New York Liberty are no exception. Most notably, Kiah Stokes was more than happy to play into the Liberty’s reputation as a de facto United Nations of basketball. The center/forward of Turkish descent revealed that she would be rooming with guard Kia Nurse and fellow interior prescience Amanda Zahui B, who respectively hail from Canada and Sweden.

Elsewhere, veteran newcomer Layshia Clarendon announced her departure for the endeavor with a post that expressed a hint of trepidation but also hope and confidence in the league’s medical protocols.

Rookies also got in on the social sharing, with first-round picks Sabrina Ionescu and Jazmine Jones commemorating their arrivals in their Instagram Stories.

The WNBA has opted to create a bubble-like surrounding at IMG Academy, affectionately referred to by some players and media as the “wubble” (though Stokes spoke out against that name on Twitter). Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida, but the league is confident in its setup. 137 players were tested upon their arrival in Florida this week with seven testing positive, per a league statement. The statement explains that those who tested positive “will remain in self-isolation until she satisfies public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and has been cleared by a physician”. Players and staff will be tested daily for the next two weeks and will then quarantine for four days.

Of the league’s dozen teams, only the Indiana Fever has yet to report to Florida due to “an abundance of caution due to the CDC’s close contact self-quarantine requirements”. Several players have already opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns, including Rebecca Allen and Asia Durr of the Liberty. Numerous national names have also opted out, including All-Stars Liz Cambage of Las Vegas and Jonquel Jones of Connecticut.

Player reviews of the “wubble” appear to be mixed thus far. Participants like Minnesota’s Lexie Brown have offered positive reviews thus far, while negative response have appeared to come from Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, among others.

In their effort to press on, the WNBA has announced that the 2020 season will be dedicated to social justice. The Floridian courts and players’ warm-up uniforms will bear the “Black Lives Matter” slogan and game uniforms on opening weekend will feature the names of female victims of police brutality and racial violence. Additionally, a Social Justice Council has been formed, one whose mission is described as a “driving force of necessary and continuing conversations about race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control amongst other important societal issues”. Clarendon is among those on the council.

“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 league statement. “Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond.  Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”

The league’s schedule is expected to be released at a later date.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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