The 2023 WNBA season is underway, but rosters will continue to change as teams address injuries and absences.

As teams do their best to balance their lineups, Just Women’s Sports will be tracking who’s in and who’s out.

July 17 — Los Angeles Sparks cut Destanni Henderson

The Sparks terminated guard Destanni Henderson’s hardship contract on Sunday to make room for Layshia Clarendon, who was activated off of injured reserve.

Henderson had been with the team since June 16 after Clarendon suffered a foot injury. In 10 games, including one start, she averaged 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game. The former South Carolina star earned her team’s praise after she helped L.A. overcome a 17-point deficit to defeat the Dallas Wings on June 24 with 18 points.

“Henny has proven that (she belongs in this league),” said Sparks guard Jordin Canada. “Tonight just showed that she’s very capable of being in this league and we’re very grateful to have her here.”

Henderson was previously waived in training camp by the Indiana Fever, who selected her 20th overall in the 2022 WNBA draft.

Before her injury, Clarendon had started in six games for the Sparks, averaging 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

July 4 — Mystics flip Amanda Zahui B. for Queen Egbo

The Washington Mystics acquired former first-round draft pick Queen Egbo from the Indiana Fever on Tuesday in exchange for Amanda Zahui B.

“(We had) an opportunity to get a young player on a young player contract who has talent and has some particular skills that we are looking for,” Mystics general manager Mike Thibault told The Washington Post. “She’s an elite rebounder, a good shot blocker. We see an upside.”

The trade also helps offset the absence of Shakira Austin, who is out for at least three weeks with a hip injury. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Egbo has averaged 5.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and one block through 49 games.

The trade for Zahui B., who is on a one-year deal, frees up future cap space for Indiana. Without Egbo, the Fever have nine players under contract for the 2024 season — and now they have room for two maximum contracts next year.

Elsewhere, the Dream waived Taylor Mikesell and activated Iliana Rupert; the Sky waived Kristine Anigwe and activated Ruthy Hebard; the Wings waived Ashley Joens and Jasmine Dickey; the Mercury released Alaina Coates; and the Storm waived Arella Guirantes and signed Gabby Williams.

June 30 — A’ja Wilson signs extension with Aces

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson has signed a two-year extension with the Las Vegas Aces, the team announced. She would have been a free agent after the 2023 season.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Wilson won Rookie of the Year in her first season, then won MVP in 2020 and 2022. She helped lead the franchise to its first WNBA championship last season.

Four of the Aces’ five starters — Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray — are now under contract for the 2024 season. The team is off to a 14-1 start, with Wilson averaging 19.4 points and a team-leading 9.0 rebounds.

“When the Aces made me their first-ever draft pick, they entrusted me with a lot,” Wilson said in a news release. “I’m happy to still be in Las Vegas, winning games, playing at a high level, but also being a part of a community that has embraced me and my teammates over the past six years, and made this city a second home for me.”

June 20 — Mystics re-sign Abby Meyers to hardship contract

First-round draft pick Abby Meyers has signed with the Washington Mystics on a hardship contract.

The Dallas Wings selected the Maryland guard with the No. 11 overall pick but waived her before the start of the season. She shot 38.8% from the 3-point line in her final collegiate season, helping the Terrapins to the Elite Eight.

Meyers’ signing comes as Mystics guard Li Meng leaves to compete for China in the Asia Cup through early July. The team will also be without veteran guard Kristi Toliver for two weeks with a foot injury.

June 16 — Sparks sign Destanni Henderson

The Los Angeles Sparks picked up former South Carolina star Destanni Henderson on an emergency hardship contract.

The No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Henderson was waived by the Indiana Fever before the start of the season. She played 36 games for the Fever in 2022, averaging 5.3 points, 2.5 assists and 1.6 rebounds. She joins former Gamecocks teammate Zia Cooke in Los Angeles.

June 14 — Emily Engstler signs with Lynx

Emily Engstler has signed a hardship contract with the Minnesota Lynx, the team announced.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, Engstler was waived by the Fever in April before signing with the Washington Mystics. In two preseason games with Washington, Engstler had 15 points, 12 rebounds and one block, but she was waived before the start of the season.

June 9 — Taylor Soule signs with Sky

Rookie forward Taylor Soule signed a rest-of-season hardship contract with the Chicago Sky. The Minnesota Lynx had drafted the Virginia Tech product in the third round of the 2023 draft but waived her before the start of the season.

Soule averaged 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in five seasons with the Hokies, and she helped lead the team to the Final Four in her final season.

Also this week, Odyssey Sims signed a rest-of-season hardship contract with the Dallas Wings, while Kaila Charles was waived by the Seattle Storm and Bernadett Hatar was waived by the Indiana Fever.

June 6 — Karlie Samuelson re-signs with Sparks

Just one day after releasing Karlie Samuelson, the Los Angeles Sparks re-signed the 6-0 guard to a rest-of-season hardship contract.

Samuelson made the Sparks’ roster to start the season, helping to fill the hole left by her sister Katie Lou Samuelson, who is missing the season due to pregnancy, and by Jasmine Thomas, who is rehabbing from an ACL tear she sustained last May. Samuelson is averaging 9.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in five games this season.

The Sparks also activated center Azurá Stevens, who has been recovering from a back injury, and released forward Joyner Holmes.


June 5 — Taylor Mikesell signs with Dream

The Atlanta Dream signed Taylor Mikesell, the team announced Monday. The No. 13 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, she was waived by the Indiana Fever during training camp.

The signing comes after the Dream waived Lorela Cubaj due to her EuroBasket commitments.

Mikesell brings shooting depth to a Dream team currently averaging 34.8% from 3-point range, which is sixth overall in the league. The Ohio State standout shot 42% from deep in her college career.

May 30 — Marine Johannès rejoins Liberty, Kalani Brown signs with Wings

Marine Johannès has rejoined the New York Liberty after winning the French league title with AVSEL. As Johannès had played just two WNBA seasons entering 2023, the prioritization rule — which requires WNBA players to return to the U.S. league by the start of the season — did not play to her.

The 28-year-old guard averaged 10.0 points and 3.4 assists in 25.5 minutes per game for the Liberty in 2022.

Meanwhile, Kalani Brown returned to the Dallas Wings on a hardship contract. The Wings had waived the 2019 first-round pick ahead of the season opener but brought her back as they deal with long-term knee injuries to Lou Lopez Sénéchal and Diamond DeShields.

May 22 — Gabby Williams remains in limbo for Seattle

Restricted free agent Gabby Williams remains undecided about her plans for the 2023 WNBA season, her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas told ESPN’s M.A. Voepel.

“The 2023 WNBA season is an option for Gabby, but not a certainty,” Kagawa Colas said. “For now, she’s prioritizing her health while taking into account her French national team commitments this summer. From there, we can start to evaluate availability for the WNBA, but as of today we are still a couple of steps away.”

Williams’ status has been up in the air as a result of the league’s new prioritization rule, which requires players to complete their offseason obligations before the start of the WNBA season. Williams had been playing for ASVEL in the French league, but she had her contract suspended to meet the prioritization deadline.

While the decision left Williams unable to play in the final two games of the championship series, which ended in a title for ASVEL, it kept open the possibility of a return to Seattle for the 2023 season.

Still, under the prioritization rule, Williams would be subject to a fine of one percent of her 2023 salary for each day of training camp that she missed if she does sign with the Storm.

“We are in constant communication with Gabby,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said. “We know that she didn’t play. Just kind of staying well aware of the situation. Obviously her health is the most important right now.”

Williams was a starter for Seattle last season, averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

May 18 — WNBA teams set opening day rosters

WNBA teams made their final cuts ahead of opening day.

Of the 36 college stars drafted in April, just 15 appear on rosters to start the season, including two third-round selections in the Indiana Fever’s Victaria Saxon and the Phoenix Mercury’s Kadi Sissoko.

Notable rookie free agents include No. 11 pick Abby Meyers, who was cut by the Dallas Wings, and No. 22 pick Alexis Morris, who made waves with her reaction to the lack of available roster spots.

May 17 — Charli Collier, Kalani Brown waived by Wings

The Dallas Wings waived former No. 1 overall pick Charli Collier on Wednesday morning as well as 2019 first-round pick Kalani Brown.

Collier played two seasons in Dallas, averaging 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, and she was named to the All-Rookie team in 2021.

The Wings also announced that 2023 first-round pick Lou Lopez Sénéchal is set to undergo knee surgery and will be out six to eight weeks, while Diamond DeShields will miss “extended time this season” as she deals with a knee injury.

May 16 — Monika Czinano waived by Sparks, two former South Carolina stars cut

The Los Angeles Sparks cut Iowa standout Monika Czinano. Czinano was selected in the third round of the draft with the No. 26 overall pick.

With her exit, all three draftees who participated in the 2023 national title game – Czinano, Alexis Morris, and LaDazhia Williams – have been waived by their WNBA teams.

Elsewhere, two former South Carolina stars were waived by their teams, Brea Beal by the Minnesota Lynx and Destanni Henderson by the Indiana Fever.

Beal was drafted with the No. 24 overall pick this year. While she did not score in 10 minutes in the Lynx’s loss to Chicago in the preseason WNBA Canada Game, she did record a rebound, an assist and a steal.

Henderson, a second-round pick in 2022, played 36 games for the Fever last season, averaging 5.3 points, 2.5 assists and 1.6 rebounds.

The New York Liberty also made a number of cuts, with Sika Koné, Morgan Green, Stephanie Mawuli and DiDi Richards all being waived. The former NCAA champion had been a staple member of the Liberty the last two years, averaging 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds.

The Connecticut Sun waived a trio of players — Caitlin Bickle, Nia Clouden and Jayla Everett — in addition to acquiring Leigha Brown from the Atlanta Dream, while Seattle waived Jasmine Walker.

May 15 — Dallas Wings cut first-round pick Abby Meyers

The No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Abby Meyers was cut by the Dallas Wings before the start of the regular season. She played just one minute in Saturday’s preseason loss to Indiana and scored no points.

Meyers played collegiately at both Princeton and Maryland before becoming one of the Wings’ two first-round picks, along with Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist. The Wings also acquired first-round selection Lou Lopez-Sénéchal from the Washington Mystics, and Lopez-Sénéchal and Siegrist remain with Dallas.

The Wings’ roster sits at 14 players, so two more will have to be cut before Thursday’s roster deadline to reach the 12-player maximum.

Alexis Peterson was waived by the Las Vegas Aces. The former 15th overall pick of the 2017 draft, Peterson has played primarily overseas.

Also on Monday, the New York Liberty signed Sabrina Ionescu to a two-year contract extension through the 2025 season.

May 14 — Washington Mystics waive Elena Tsineke

A number of teams announced roster cuts on Sunday, with the Mystics waiving both Stephanie Jones and Elena Tsineke. Tsineke was drafted 20th overall by the team in the draft, and reportedly had been impressing in camp.

“[Tsineke] has come out and, I know that she was a scorer at USF, but to see [her] implemented into the professional game already. Like she’s ready and that’s exciting to see,” Natasha Cloud told NBC Sports. “She’s just a dog like she’s gonna yell at everyone, she’s gonna be up guarding at halfcourt waiting for you.”

Cloud has been vocal about the WNBA needing to expand after tough roster cuts.

The Minnesota Lynx also announced cuts on Sunday, with Maya Dodson and Myah Selland both being waived by the team. Additionally, Angel Baker was waived by the Chicago Sky.

May 13 — WNBA vets Reshanda Gray, Crystal Bradford waived by Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Sparks announced that the team had waived Crystal Bradford and Reshanda Gray. Gray has played in the WNBA for six seasons, spending time with Minnesota, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Phoenix. Bradford has played two seasons in the league (2015 in Los Angeles, 2021 in Atlanta).

Also on Sunday, the Phoenix Mercury announced the team had waived rookie Liz Dixon and second-year vet Destiny Slocum, while the Washington Mystics cut Stephanie Jones and Elena Tsineke.

May 10 — LSU’s Alexis Morris cut by Connecticut

The Connecticut Sun waived a trio of rookies on Wednesday — draftees Alexis Morris and Ashten Prechtel and undrafted free agent Diamond Battles.

LSU national champion point guard Morris announced her exit just hours after she played in a preseason game for the Sun, tweeting: “Welp I just got waived. Thank you Sun nation.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, 23 of 36 picks from the 2023 draft appeared on rosters, and almost every team still has cuts left to make to fit under the 12-player maximum.

May 9 — Evina Westbrook picked up by Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury have signed Evina Westbrook to a training camp contract, claiming her off waivers after she was cut by the Washington Mystics.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Sun exercised DiJonai Carrington’s fourth-year option, guaranteeing her salary in 2024. She took to Twitter to celebrate the extension, writing “GOD IS BIG.”

Elsewhere, the Las Vegas Aces made a trio of cuts, waiving Brittany Davis, Courtney Range and Aisha Sheppard.

May 7 — Mystics waive Evina Westbrook

Former UConn and Tennessee guard Evina Westbrook was waived by the Mystics as one of two roster cuts.

Westbrook played 14 games for Minnesota and six for Washington last season, averaging 2.8 points and 1.2 assists per game. During the Mystics’ preseason game, she had seven points and three rebounds through 26 minutes.

Also waived was Alisia Jenkins. A former standout at South Florida, Jenkins last played in the league in 2020, bouncing around from Indiana, to Chicago then Phoenix on 7-day contracts. Jenkins had four points and three fouls through 10 minutes of preseason play.

The Mystics’ roster now sits at 15, meaning they’ll need to cut three more players to reach the league-maximum 12-player roster size.

May 5 — A trio of teams make roster cuts

The Atlanta Dream cut Mikayla Pivec and Alaina Coates. Coates, a former second-overall pick in the 2017 draft, has bounced around the league since getting drafted. She spent last season with Indiana, averaging 3.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

The Sun, meanwhile, waived Victoria Macaulay, while the Phoenix Mercury waived Destiny Harden. Harden was the 27th overall pick in the 2023 draft after playing collegiately at Miami. She averaged a career-high 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season.

May 3 — Fever waive former college star Rennia Davis

The Indiana Fever waived former first-round draft pick Rennia Davis three days into WNBA training camp.

Davis, a four-year starter at Tennessee, was the ninth overall pick of the Minnesota Lynx in the 2021 WNBA draft. She missed her entire rookie season after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in her left foot.

In 2022, the Lynx waived Davis from their training camp roster after she recorded a double-double in their second preseason game. Davis returned to the Lynx on a hardship contract and played in one game before she was again released on May 12. The 6-foot-2 guard/forward signed with Indiana on July 15 and played in seven games to close out the season, averaging 5.7 minutes per game.

May 3 — Connecticut slims down roster with cuts

The Sun waived Kiara Smith, Khaalia Hillsman and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.

Herbert Harrigan is a former South Carolina standout who was drafted sixth overall in the 2020 WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx. After one season in Minnesota, she spent the 2021 season with the Seattle Storm. Since 2022, she’s been a member of the WBBL’s London Lions.

Smith, meanwhile, was drafted 36th overall by the Sun in 2022, but sat out last season due to injury.

May 1 — Mystics sign Emily Engstler to training camp contract

One day after WNBA training camp began, the Washington Mystics have signed Emily Engstler. The deal comes just five days after the Fever released the former No. 4 overall pick from the 2022 draft.

Engstler averaged 5.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 blocks per game, scoring in double figures four times. Her 181 total rebounds for the season were the fifth-most recorded by a Fever rookie in franchise history. The Louisville grad also joined Destanni Henderson and Victoria Vivians as the only players in franchise history to play more than 34 games in a regular season.

April 30 — Sun sign Diamond Battles to rookie scale contract, waive Lasha Petree

The Sun signed former Georgia Bulldog leading scorer Diamond Battles to a rookie-scale contract. At the same time, they waived Lasha Petree.

Petree is a former Purdue Boilermaker who also played at Rutgers and Bradley. She averaged 13.9 points per game in her college career.

April 27 — Mercury waive former first-round pick Sydney Wiese

With three days until WNBA training camps open, the Phoenix Mercury waived former 11th overall pick Sydney Wiese.

Drafted in 2017 by the Los Angeles Sparks, Wiese played three seasons in L.A. before she was traded to the Washington Mystics in 2021. In four seasons with the Sparks, she averaged 3.9 points and 1.1 rebounds, including a career-high 6.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in 2020.

Wiese played one season in Washington, suffering a knee injury last March. Phoenix signed the guard to a training camp contract in February.

Also on Thursday, the Connecticut Sun signed Lasha Petree to a rookie scale contract. The guard led Purdue in scoring this past season with 14.7 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting from the field.

April 26 — Fever waive 2022 fourth overall pick Emily Engstler

The Indiana Fever released second-year forward Emily Engstler. The fourth overall pick in the 2022 WNBA draft, she played 35 games as a rookie for the Fever last season, starting in six of them.

Engstler’s 40 blocked shots in 2022 were tied for the team high and were four shy of tying Tamika Catchings’ rookie franchise record.

This marks the third consecutive season in which the Fever have waived a top draft pick. The team waived 2021 No. 4 pick Kysre Gondrezick last season and 2020 No. 3 pick Lauren Cox in the previous season.

April 24 — Aces waive rookie Elizabeth Balogun

Elizabeth Balogun is on the market after being waived by the Las Vegas Aces.

Balogun had inked a training camp contract with the Aces after going undrafted out of Duke. A 2023 Cheryl Miller Small Forward of the Year Preseason and Midseason Top-10 watch list candidate, she played in all 33 games, starting in 27 of them, for the Blue Devils during the 2022-23 season.

Through two seasons with Duke, Balogun averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. Last season she was second on the team in scoring (10.2 points) and led the team in rebounding (5.2 rebounds).

She also was a member of the Nigerian Olympic Team at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

April 12 — Astou Ndour-Fall opts out of 2023 season

Even though Astou Ndour-Fall signed a one-year contract with the Sky in February, the Spanish national team center is opting out of the 2023 WNBA season. Ndour-Fall’s Italian season and the report date to Chicago factored into the decision, as did her international schedule this summer, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Annie Costabile reported.

This year’s FIBA EuroBasket tournament is set to take place from June 15-25, right in the middle of the WNBA season. Her absence is likely a result of the new prioritization clause that is being implemented starting this season. 

Without Ndour-Fall, the team’s roster includes Marina Mabrey, Isabelle Harrison and Kahleah Copper as veterans.

Amanda Zahui B. knows her name “is clearly in the mix” in recent reports of Liz Cambage’s rocky tenure with the Los Angeles Sparks, but she spoke out Wednesday via Twitter, writing that she is “at peace” overseas.

Zahui B.’s Twitter thread came one day after the Sparks and Cambage agreed to a contract divorce.

In the aftermath of the messy split, a Yahoo Sports report indicated that Cambage took Zahui B.’s jersey number before the start of the 2022 season. Then-Sparks coach Derek Fisher approached Zahui B. about giving her No. 1 to Cambage. Zahui B. politely declined, but management opted to give the number to Cambage anyway, per Yahoo Sports.

Zahui B. found out about the number switch via social media, according to Yahoo Sports’ sources, which “ruffled feathers” within the Sparks’ locker room.

The Sparks later placed Zahui B. on the full-season suspension list before the start of the season, citing her limited availability for the WNBA season due to her overseas obligations.

“Shit happens, you flush it down, you move and you learn from it,” Zahui B. wrote on Twitter. “With the recent news we all learned my name is clearly in the mix. But please believe this. I am at peace and when I decide to speak my truth I will.”

The Swedish center said she has received “so much love and support” this summer “for not being in L.A. playing right now.” She is back home in Sweden, “sending everyone positive vibes all the way from Stockholm.”

Zahui B. played in 30 games for the Sparks in the 2021 season, averaging 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

Cambage’s issues with the Sparks reportedly ran deeper than the conflict over Zahui B.’s jersey number. Yahoo Sports also reported that the star center criticized teammates during film sessions and accused them of not giving her the ball.

In her final game with the team Saturday, Cambage was unhappy with her touches, which led to her teammates force-feeding her the ball out of annoyance. After the game, Cambage told the locker room that she “can’t do this anymore” before wishing the team “best of luck.”

Before the contract divorce, Cambage played in 25 games for the Sparks this season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.

Pride Month carries special meaning for the WNBA. In a league where the majority of the athletes are Black and many identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, a month dedicated to celebrating diversity and inclusion is an opportunity for them to share their values with the rest of the world.

It’s also a celebration that extends far beyond June. For the WNBA Players Association, LGBTQ+ advocacy, with a special focus on combating anti-transgender legislation, is a top priority for the 2021 season.

To get a feel for the conversations being had within WNBA circles, Just Women’s Sports talked with both Seattle’s Candice Dupree and Los Angeles’ Amanda Zahui B. The players discussed being open about their sexuality, the influence their advocacy has on others, what good allyship looks like, and their feelings about the bills targeting transgender youth in sports.

(Editor’s note: This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

JWS: We’re nearing the end of Pride Month, when the WNBA is always at the forefront of pushing initiatives and championing differences. What does Pride Month mean to you both personally?

Amanda Zahui B: I think it’s just a month where everyone who doesn’t celebrate our community is celebrating us. Because we don’t do anything different. It’s a month of celebration, but it’s also a weird month because, for these days, it’s so accepting. And then when the month is over, it’s like, all right, we go back to normal and the love and the support and the hype around our community is no longer there. It’s an important month, and I think that a lot of people gain the confidence to open up and really show who they are without the fear of being judged. So that’s beautiful. I just wish that it was like that all the time.

Dupree: I totally get what you’re saying. I mean, I’ve never been one to really give a s*** about what people think about how I live my life. So, I agree. People use June to celebrate instead of celebrating all year round. I guess it’s no different how February is Black History Month. It’s like importance is placed on that, but only for the month of February. So I think as a society, we have to find a way to be accepting all the time and not just in the month of June.

JWS: In this month, too, you see companies put out statements or put rainbow colors on their Twitter logos, and you get the feeling some of it is performative.

Dupree: Yeah, it should be like that all year round. We should know that these companies are inclusive. Like, here in Seattle, you see the flags hanging everywhere. That should be the norm.

JWS: And the WNBA is a leader in keeping this going throughout the year, just based on what you represent and all the work that you do off the court. How do you set that standard as a league?

Dupree: I look at it as, it’s about the next generation and what we’re teaching the people, the kids that are up and coming. I have my two little girls, and I don’t make a big deal about it, but I make sure that they’re aware of it. We took them to Target — their little notepads are actually behind me. The Pride flag, transgender flag is on the notebooks and they open them up, they draw and that kind of stuff. And they get that society is so caught up in, like, pink is for girls, blue is for boys. This is for girls, this is for boys.

So I’m just trying to teach them to be you, be your own individual. It doesn’t matter what people think. They’re only 3 and they’ve gone to school, and one little boy told one of my girls, “Ooh, girls don’t wear that.” Well, why not? Why do they have to dress or look a certain way? And why does that only have to be for boys? And so I just teach them to be open-minded, be accepting, but at the same time, be yourself.

Zahui B: I think it’s also because you lived through it.

Dupree: Yeah, and being a gay person, I have actually never faced any type of discrimination. I’ve never had to deal with any personal issues. I mean, my biggest thing was probably how I came out to my mom. And even for me, it wasn’t that big of a deal compared to other people’s situation.

JWS: It’s so cool that you’re passing that message onto your kids. Because of the platform you have and the way you carry yourselves as players and as a league, have you seen examples of your message and influence being passed onto others?

Dupree: The girls were born early and had to spend a few days in the NICU. So, (DeWanna Bonner) and I were there spending time with them and a doctor walked into their room. … She knew who we were because she knew that we played professional basketball, and she walked in and she thanked us for living our truth, being who we are. Obviously, being a pro athlete, we have influenced people in ways that we don’t even realize, but for her to come in and just thank us for not caring what other people think and being happy, having these girls, that was a huge moment for me. And she was a grown adult woman. So I can only imagine some of the younger generation looking up to us, how much them seeing us impacts their lives in a positive way.

It was definitely very impressionable. It’s a moment that I’ll obviously never forget.

JWS: Amanda, what were the reactions to the Pride story you wrote for the WNBA website earlier in the month?

Zahui B: I got a lot of positive feedback. One of my former coaches came to a game and she just walked up to me when we were shooting and she goes, “Thank you for being so open, for being you.” And she’s a gay, Black woman. And I was like, “Yeah, duh, this is what we do.” And she was like, “No, you being vulnerable and opening up to the whole world about something that some people see as taboo, it weighs heavy.”

JWS: When it comes to marketing women in sports, there’s often this expectation for women to fit into a certain box to be considered “marketable.” Candice, this is your 16th year in the WNBA, Amanda your seventh. How have each of you seen that evolve over time?

Dupree: When I first got to the league, there was no celebrating Pride Month. Like, you didn’t hear anything about it. But looking in the stands, you’re like, man, there’s a good majority of our fan base that can relate to that community. So for me, it was always interesting. I’m a very private person, I don’t put too much of my life on social media. For the most part, I keep to myself. And so in my mind, it was interesting that they didn’t cater to that market more. So I think it’s great that now we have Pride Month and all these different things that they celebrate throughout the course of the season. And I love that they’re all about inclusion and diversity. So to see all of that evolve over the last 15 years, it’s been pretty cool.

Zahui B: And to me, it’s kind of wild that the first Pride game was, I think, in 2014. Because you look up to the stands and, not judging people, but you kind of know who’s in the same community. So we celebrate all of these other things and I can’t imagine the W not celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. Like, it’s so second nature for us. We stand for so much more than just basketball, and that’s something that we constantly keep on saying and preaching. Like, we are actually about it. You just look across our league and we have so many different kinds of people.

Dupree: At a time when you saw, like, no other sports leagues doing that kind of stuff. I don’t think that the WNBA gets enough credit for how forward-thinking they are, and then before you know it, all these other pro sports organizations are trying to piggyback off of it. I saw for the first time the San Francisco Giants had Pride uniforms. I don’t even know how I came across it, and I’m like, wow, now professional baseball has uniforms for Pride Month.

Zahui B: I’m curious to see the men’s side of things, how comfortable everyone in the league is with the topic of sexuality. At one point it was like, we don’t talk about that at all. I would like to hear what they have to say, because us in the locker room, we know that just because I love women doesn’t mean that I’m checking out my teammates. But it’s a different conversation with men. I’m not saying all men, but I’ve had that conversation with men.

I don’t see a lot of them posting that trans lives matter. Yeah, Black lives matter, but all of us matter. Like, it’s not just about our Black men and our heterosexual women. It’s about all of us. And that’s something that the W, like you said, we’re leading the way in that, and everyone else is piggybacking off of and taking baby steps behind us.

JWS: Was there a time when that wasn’t the case in the WNBA, when people weren’t as accepting as they are now?

Dupree: I don’t think I’ve had any issues with that kind of stuff since I’ve been in the league. I guess if somebody does have an issue, they’re probably more apt to not say anything, so you would never know.

Zahui B: I had a conversation with a former teammate where she was telling me her side, and she was like, “I used to be really homophobic.” And I was like, “So, you were really in the locker room, hearing people talk about things that make you uncomfortable?” It was such an interesting conversation because I don’t see how you can hate someone that you don’t know. Like, you don’t know what they’re going through. But then for her to just 180 and be like, “I’m supporting you guys,” I think that’s beautiful.

Dupree: Like two or three years ago, our team sponsor was a major sponsor of the Pride parade in Indiana and so they wanted a few people from the team to partake in it. And nobody responded and said that they were going, and so finally it was like, all right, we’re just going to do it as a team. Then I had two teammates that didn’t show up, like they refused to go. And so that’s why I said you never know how people feel about it until they have to or they’re asked to partake in stuff like that.

So I just had a conversation with them. One was concerned that if she went, everybody was going to think that she was gay. And I’m like, first of all, you play in the WNBA, so everybody already thinks you’re gay. Like, that’s just the stigma behind the WNBA. And then the other one I found out was homophobic for years, but yet she has all these friends that are gay. And she had a bit of a loud mouth in the locker room. I think she had asked us to go somewhere or do something, and I was like, “So, you want us to come and support you, but when it comes time to support us and our community, you don’t want to show up?” I made her really uncomfortable, but it was the truth.

Zahui B: How was the team dynamic after that?

Dupree: I gave her a hard time in the locker room and people were like, “Yeah, Can, tell her!” And then I just left her alone. But it’s crazy because I never would have known. Like yeah, they’ve had boyfriends, but I never would have known that that’s how they really felt had we not encountered that situation. That’s what I mean that people don’t ever say anything, they just kind of go with the flow, and then you really find out how people are when they’re put in certain situations.

Zahui B: Like, if you are somebody that I consider one of my close friends, you better be very comfortable with me talking about my sexual life. You already know this, Candice. I’m very open. You have to be comfortable with me bringing my girlfriend, whoever I’m dating around, just like I’m comfortable listening to you and being around your boyfriends.

JWS: That actually brings me to another question. Candice, you gave an example of calling someone out for not being supportive. But what does good allyship look like?

Zahui B: I think great allyship — it must’ve been Brittany Boyd. It was 2017 on the float in the New York City Pride parade and Boyd was just standing up and saying, “Love who you want to love! I love love!” I think that’s a great example of like, “I don’t want to be with another female, but if that’s what makes my best friends happy, then I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs to the rest of the world to let them know that it’s OK.” And there’s different ways of doing that. But I just think that it’s speaking up, because at the end of the day we are all human beings.

Dupree: Both of us have white moms who had kids with Black guys, but my mom has never been one to shy away from being different. Even within her own family, regardless of how they felt, she did her own thing, she did what she thought was right. And I think that’s something that she’s instilled in her kids. Like, I don’t care who you are, what you do, you don’t get treated any differently.

Zahui B: My mom’s the same way. Any time she sees something that is the Pride flag, she sends it to me. Like, now I have the keychain with the Pride flag.

Dupree: My mom is actually the one that got (my kids) these Pride notebooks when they came here to visit us. She bought them from Target. I’m like, this is hilarious.

Zahui B: My mom goes around and is like, “My daughter’s gay.” And I’m like, “I’m good, mom.”

JWS: We’ve touched on how the WNBA has historically been really supportive of differences. When it comes to outside sponsors — I think of your partnerships with Glossier and Adidas, Amanda, as examples — have they become more tolerating and accepting over the years?

Zahui B: I think that companies and sponsors are getting more comfortable because they gain more numbers. I feel like the companies that I work with, like Adidas, we can sit down and have an open conversation about life and we learn from each other. That way, we can gain more confidence to go out in public and talk about it. … I know Nike does the same thing. It’s not just doing it to do it, but they are gaining the knowledge from us and now they can put it out there in the world because they have a bigger and larger platform. I just appreciate when sponsors or whoever are willing to have the tough conversation. And it’s extra for me and Candice because we are Black, too, so It’s not just being a lesbian. Like, we are Black and Candice is a Black mother who had babies with another Black woman.

Dupree: I’m a Nike athlete and a lot of the Nike athletes are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. So usually, we have Pride shoes that we get to play in, but things have been a little crazy because of COVID. But I think it’s cool. I even get on Nordstrom’s website and you just see all the different product lines that are out now that cater to Pride and the people in our community. So there’s progress, for sure.

JWS: Another priority of the WNBPA’s this year is the anti-transgender legislation we’ve seen sweeping across states. Advocates of those bills are trying to justify them by saying they will help protect women’s sports. What do you think when you hear that? What do you make of those arguments?

Dupree: I’m actually still trying to educate myself more on that topic. People have asked me questions and I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it. I actually started a master’s degree program and one of the classes that I took was a psychology class, and part of it was discrimination in sports and gender discrimination. I wanted my case study to be on youth transgender athletes, and I couldn’t even do it because there’s not enough research out there yet regarding the stigma behind all of it.

I watched “Changing the Game” — it was a documentary that came out not too long ago. Even watching that, all my questions are geared toward the scientific part of it. You had one athlete that was a wrestler and he wanted to compete with the boys in high school. And they told him because he was born a female, he wasn’t allowed to. But at the same time, he’s taking hormones and testosterone and they’re making him compete with females. So I’m like, how is that not an unfair advantage on his behalf? Because you’re making him compete with females, but yet he’s taking hormones. It almost doesn’t make sense what they’re forcing him to do. Because now, he’s never going to lose. He’s already taking hormones. And then you have the opposite of that where they think, well, they were born a man, so that’s an unfair advantage. There’s so much that I still want to learn regarding that.

Zahui B: I feel the exact same way. Like you said, I’m not educated well enough on the science part of it. So it’s all just a million thoughts.

Dupree: I think the easiest way to break it down is parents are concerned. Like, you have to think about how big the transgender population is in sports. It’s probably extremely small. And I had a parent ask me, “What are your thoughts on transgender athletes?” She had two daughters that played on a high school basketball team, and she was like, “I don’t think it’s fair that they’re going to get a roster spot over my two girls.” And I’m like, “What are the chances of your daughters having to compete against another transgender athlete?” Like, the population is so small.

Zahui B: In Sweden, we had the first transgender boy or young adult — he was born a female — play basketball. Noel — that’s his name now — played with the guys, and I just thought that was so cool. For him, it wasn’t like, “I need to beat everyone.” It was more so, “We’re taking a step in the right direction, and I played comfortably in the gender and around the other guys that I always felt like I was.” And I was thinking, just imagine that feeling of like, I’m finally home. I get to play basketball as me.

Dupree: Yeah, parents make a big deal out of it, and they’re talking about the safety of girls in the locker room and all of that.

Zahui B: But there are so many arguments I can find against safety in the locker room. Like, it’s so understandable, the stress and the safety of your own child. I don’t have kids yet, and I know I’m going to be over-protective. But at the same time, not everyone is evil because they are different.

JWS: So, education and conversations — is that where the WNBA is on this particular issue at this point?

Dupree: I know that’s where I am personally. As far as the league as a whole, I think right now they’re just trying to stay engaged and understand what these bills are for. But at the end of the day, between the WNBA and the WNBPA, it’s all about diversity and inclusion.

JWS: Yeah, and the WNBA has been involved in this type of activism for so long. Last year, in particular, you showed how influential your voices and efforts can be in society and politics. On a personal level, do you feel even more of a responsibility to use your platform to push for change where it matters most to you?

Zahui B: No, I’m just being me.

Dupree: I don’t know that I look at it as a responsibility. I post what I want to post, whether it’s informative or not, and if people are able to educate themselves by reading stuff that I post, I think that’s great. But yeah, I don’t know that I take it as a responsibility, like I have to do this. Like Amanda said, it’s just being me.

Zahui B: I think we both literally say whatever we mean and whatever we feel like without trying to hurt anyone. And that’s how it is with social media. I think that we both are for love and respect and for world peace, so that’s what we try to post. And it’s not like we think, I have to post this so other people see it. It’s more so, this feels right for me.

JWS: Do you think last year then was an example of more people starting to realize what the WNBA has always been about?

Dupree: Yeah, for sure. Because at the time, it was just us and the NBA. We were the only sports being played. So it was a great opportunity for the league and for the players to get out there and let people know what we’re all about. And I thought everybody did a great job of that.

Zahui B: And we did it as a unit. I think that’s why it was so powerful. Like, we all were on the same page. We all were fighting the same fight together. We’ve never all been in the same space at the same time. And with doing and being the way that we are, there comes a certain kind of responsibility. We can’t neglect that. But I think that we have been just us this whole time, that it was easy. Even when it was hard, it was easy in a sense.

Dupree: I get what you’re saying. Like, just by being ourselves, we were able to show the entire world this is who we are and this is what we stand for. We felt like we were taking on this responsibility to get certain things out there, but it just came naturally.