all scores

Gabby Williams: “We’re Trying to Normalize the Reality That We Are Citizens”

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- August 12: Gabby Williams #15 of the Chicago Sky in action during the Connecticut Sun Vs Chicago Sky, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 12, 2018 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Gabby Williams is an American-French basketball player who plays for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA and will play for Hungary’s Sopron Basket in the upcoming season. A 2x NCAA Champion at UConn, Williams was drafted 4th overall by the Sky in 2018.

What are your thoughts about the WNBA’s social justice efforts and the importance of dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor?

Deciding to come to the bubble was really hard for us as WNBA players, because this was at the forefront of our minds. So as a league, we decided that if this season was going to happen, it would be dedicated to this cause.

Can you talk to me about the social justice campaign (“Sky Takes Action”) that you and your teammates launched?

Before we even came to the bubble – before we even knew we were having a season – we often spent time on team Zoom calls to discuss how each of us has been affected by racism and social injustice. As a team, we really wanted to do something together that made us feel like we were provoking change, and being seen and heard.

“Sky Takes Action” is a campaign where my teammates and I donate our own money, based on our performance during the game, to five local organizations after each game we play. For example, every point is $10, every win is $100 and every loss is $50. We’re also challenging the fans to match our donation collectively. After our first game, we as a team raised over $1,000 because we scored 96 points and won. Our fans kicked our butt and raised almost $2,000.

Why do you think it’s so important as an athlete to use your platform to speak up about social justice issues?

We’re trying to normalize the reality that we are citizens, Black people, women – we’re whatever we are and we’re basketball players. The two come together. We’re not one or the other. They are intersectional.

We hear the phrase “shut up and dribble” all the time. But when we step off the court, we’re Black women. We’re citizens of this country as well. It’s so important that we use our platform to normalize this idea that this is a part of who we are. And if people are going to watch this on TV, they’re going to know who we are.

Using your platform as a player was one of the reasons you decided to opt into this season in the first place, right?

Yeah, exactly. I was going back and forth between the dangers of coming back for this season. I decided to embrace it and realized there could be an even greater thing that comes out of this. Look at the numbers – we’re finally getting the attention that we deserve. I thought how powerful it could be in a time like this, when we’re in this kind of national turmoil, for a young Black girl to turn on the TV and see powerful Black women on the screen, basketball players who are also using their platform to speak about their community and what’s important to them. We thought that could be really powerful.

 How do you think that the league has handled all the different logistics leading up to life in the bubble and now with games happening?

It’s been surprisingly pretty good. I don’t think anyone expected it to be absolutely perfect. But the way we monitor our temperature every day to the way we’re getting our food delivered – it’s all been really great. So, I’m pretty impressed with how IMG and the league put this together.

There was a lot of momentum with the new CBA before this season. How do you think that the WNBA can keep it going in the bubble?

We’re just getting what we deserve – at least a portion of it. We’ve been preaching and saying for years that if you just give us the chance, people will watch us and enjoy our games. We play good basketball, and the WNBA is a good product. With the CBA, the league is paying us more money – and we’re showing that we deserve it.

Last time you spoke with JWS, you were locked down in France after the French League season and you had your cat with you. Were you able to bring her to the bubble at all?

There’s no pets allowed on the IMG campus. I’m sleeping alone at night. I get a lot of pictures, and I have her photo on my fridge.

Do you think that it’s been hard to stay motivated while living in such a different environment this season? 

It hasn’t been difficult at all. I mean, we’re competitive players at the core – it’s a part of our identity. For sure we miss our fans, but we still know that we’re playing for them. We know that people are watching us on TV. We also know a lot of people are watching us for the first time. It hasn’t been hard to stay motivated. It’s been so fun to play again, especially with this team. I think the team is just so special.

Chicago has come out well in the opening games. What are your thoughts on how the team is playing so far? How do you keep this momentum throughout the rest of the season?

Our first two games were important to us, because we won those games as a collective team. Everyone contributed. Everybody got a piece of the action. A lot of us had to step up in roles that we haven’t necessarily been in with Stefanie Dolson out at the last game [Dolson sat on the sidelines with an ankle injury at the Sparks game], with Diamond DeShields being limited in her minutes [DeShields is recovering from a knee injury]. It’s forced a lot of us to be in positions that we weren’t in before. The fact that we showed that we can step up and rise to the occasion is a really good sign for the future of our season.

How do you feel like you’ve transitioned back into playing? 

Just like any return to training camp, you have those bumps and bruises that you have to fight through. But overall, I’ve just been so excited to be back and play again. And during quarantine I got time to take care of a lot of things in my body that I needed to take care of.

With that said, after our first game, I literally told myself I forgot how hard basketball is. There’s nothing you can really do to prepare for 40 minute games except playing 40 minute games. I’m sure by the middle of the season, we’ll be back in the swing of things.

You recently signed to play with Hungary’s Sopron Basket.  What led you to this decision?

I’ll be going to Hungary this year instead of returning to France, which I’m a bit sad about because of course it was so nice to be in the motherland and be with my family. [Williams is American-French.] But I’m really, really excited about this next team. Unlike the US, Hungary handled COVID very well. So they’re expected to start the season on time. I’m not exactly sure what will happen with the Euro league, but Hungary is fine. The first couple of games might overlap with this WNBA season, depending on playoffs and things like that. Regardless, I’ll go after this WNBA season is over.