Maya Moore is Setting an Example for Young Black Female Athletes Everwhere

Minnesota Lynx superstar Maya Moore has done just about everything a professional athlete could want to do at this point in her still-young career. Having won a total of six championships – four with the Lynx and two in college with North Carolina – Moore has it all, right? A career average of over 18 points to go with six rebounds, over three assists and nearly two steals added on top of the championships is more than enough, right? Sponsorships, public appearances and a hype-train since the day she picked up a basketball are the cherries on top, right? There isn’t much more she could possibly dream of at the moment. If one assumed so, they would be dead wrong.

What more could she want, you ask? Recently, she sat down with Jemele Hill to explain her views on being a black female athlete and some of the things she would like more attention brought to in today’s society. It turns out, social justice and racial equality means just as much to one of the best basketball players on the planet as a career in the WNBA. Here is just a portion of the interview which is set to appear in ESPN The Magazine in early February.

Hill: “You’ve won championships on every continent but three, is that right?”

Moore: “Yes, unfortunately.”

Hill: “That’s a nice not so humblebrag. [Laughs] You have four WNBA titles in seven seasons with the Lynx, obviously two college championships. You’ve been to the White House 50 times. [Laughs]”

Moore: “Something like that.:

Hill: “How do you think your success would be viewed if you were a man?”

Moore: “Hmm, if I was—wow. Goodness, I haven’t thought—”

Hill: “Serena Williams, for example, said that if she were a man she’d already be considered the greatest athlete ever.”

Moore: “Our society is still catching up to valuing what we do as females on the athletic field in a way that has as much respect and visibility as what the men have been doing for years. You think about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and some of those pioneers that are allowing LeBron [James] and Steph [Curry] and Kevin [Durant] to do the things they’re doing now. So I’m not really ashamed of where I’m at in the history of women’s sports. Years from now, another young woman in my position doing what I’m doing is going to get that type of attention and respect.”

Hill: “You’ve chosen to use your platform and get involved in issues that are kind of tricky and thorny. In July 2016, you, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson chose to have a press conference to discuss the very serious issue of police brutality. What made you decide that was the moment?”

Moore: “It was a hard summer, 2016. We were really hurting in that moment when it was happening in our backyard of Minneapolis; the backyard of Seimone Augustus, who’s from Louisiana, and even the killing of the police down in Texas. It was all happening at the same time. So we just felt like we need to be more humans than athletes right now and to say something.”

Hill: “What was the backlash like?”

Moore: “The backlash wasn’t too crazy. We really tried to be thoughtful about respecting police. But we need everyone to rise. We need our leaders to continue to rise to end what seems preventable.”

Hill: “What was interesting was that Lindsay Whalen was involved. And for people who don’t know, she’s white. [Laughs]”

Moore: “Yes, on some days.”

Hill: “We don’t see a lot of white athletes who are visible when it comes to speaking out about racial issues and certainly not for something like police violence. In your locker room, what are the conversations about race like?”

Moore: “Lindsay loves her teammates. She has relationships with her teammates and attempts to know them. But she’s also a person who is ride or die. She’s down for her people and her family and her teammates.”

Hill: “Not just her, but Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart. There seems to be a different sense of solidarity between white and black athletes in the WNBA. We know you guys don’t make as much as male athletes, so in some respects you have even more to lose because you don’t have as much. So why do you think that level of fearlessness seems to exist among you?”

Moore: “I think there’s a pioneering, fighting kind of a spirit in the female athlete because, you know, we haven’t been raised on ‘All I have to do is play my sport and I’m going to have everything I want.’ We’ve had to do extra and go above and beyond. And I think that builds a certain character in female athletes that gets shown in the best way when it comes to these social justice issues. It’s a natural extension of our experience, fighting for those eyeballs, for views, for attention. It’s the same thing; we’ve seen that cycle. We’ve seen the rhythm of the fight. I think the heart of the female athlete is so huge.”

Hill: “Did it ever cross your mind what you could potentially lose by doing this, be it sponsors, be it fans?”

Moore: “Sure.”

Hill: “And still you proceeded.”

Moore: “I think it was just more about being thoughtful and being honest. That was part of the reason we didn’t have as much fear, because we were just being honest and kind of raw about being a citizen of the United States at that moment. But we’re in a league that is trying to gain momentum. And so any time you say something that can be controversial, you’re risking losing fans. You’re risking even moving your league back. But at the end of the day, I think that fearlessness is why people love us.”

The part that seems to stand out most is when Moore references the fact that she has had to work extremely hard in life and that she wasn’t just given everything she could ever want by playing basketball. It is so much more than just playing basketball, especially in the year 2018. Moore is making her voice known outside of just the basketball realm and trying to positively affect the lives of women, and specifically black female athletes, everywhere. That, folks, should be commended.

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