In her acceptance speech Saturday at the ESPYs, ESPN’s annual awards show, University of Connecticut women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers spoke about the lack of recognition for her Black coaches and teammates.
“With the light that I have now as a white woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrated here, I want to shed a light on Black women,” Bueckers said after being named Women’s Collegiate Athlete of the Year. “They don’t get the media coverage that they deserve. They’ve given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.”
The guard, who has nine Black teammates at UConn, pointed out the lack of media coverage of Black athletes despite women in the WNBA taking home the majority of the postseason awards last year, which included winners A’ja Wilson (MVP), Crystal Dangerfield (rookie of the year), and Candace Parker (third in MVP voting).
“The WNBA last year at the post-season awards, 80 percent of the winners were Black, but they got half the amount of coverage as the white athletes. So I think it is time for change,” said the Minnesota native.
The most recent Racial and Gender Report Card, published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport in 2019, found that 67 percent of WNBA players and 42 percent of women playing NCAA Division I basketball were Black.
"To all the incredible Black women in my life, on my teams. To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost. To those names I have not yet learned but I hope to share — I stand behind you and I will continue to follow you and follow your lead and fight for you guys.”— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
— Paige Bueckers pic.twitter.com/uhGiMAYHSu
“Sports media and sponsors tell us who is valuable, and you have told the world that I matter today. And to everyone who voted, thank you, but I think we should use this power together to also celebrate Black women,” she added.
In an interview post-ceremony with ESPN’s sports, race, and society website The Undefeated, Bueckers went into detail about why she used her speech to shed light on racial inequality in women’s basketball and the United States.
“[It comes from] a lot of conversations I’ve had with a lot of important Black women in my life — coaches, teammates. A lot of uncomfortable conversations we have just to try to spread awareness, spread growth for our country, and the world as a whole,” responded Bueckers.
During her acceptance speech, Bueckers also took the time to recognize Black women in America who have been murdered including 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot in her Louisville, Ky., apartment by police executing a search warrant for narcotics. No drugs were found in her home.
“To all the incredible Black women in my life, on my teams. To Breonna Taylor and all the lives lost. To those names I have not yet learned but I hope to share — I stand behind you and I will continue to follow you and follow your lead and fight for you guys,” she said.
Bueckers’s acceptance speech comes at a time when racial representation in sports media is at center stage. ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols was removed from her role in the network’s NBA Finals coverage after the New York Times published leaked audio in which Nichols suggested coworker Maria Taylor, who is Black, was named “NBA Countdown” host during the Finals because of her race rather than her merits.
Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.