Liberty hosts third annual UNITY Day; Mystics sit atop poll

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              Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard, right, defends New York Liberty center Tina Charles, left, who looks to pass during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Tina Charles is pleased how the New York Liberty ownership group has continued to support the players’ activism involving social issues.

The team hosted its third annual Comm-UNITY Day game this past weekend and players participated in a series of events around Sunday’s matchup against the Seattle Storm that was played at Barclays Center.

New York hosted a panel Thursday night that featured three formerly incarcerated women. The team also held a basketball clinic on Sunday before the game for children of incarcerated families well as a workshop, WOWsdom!, for girls and young women featuring former WNBA President Donna Orender.

“It shows what the organization is about and they want us as individuals and women to know it’s not just about wearing a uniform, but it’s about highlighting a platform and advocating for what you believe in,” Charles said. “The fact that we could highlight women incarcerated and Tanisha (Wright) and I and couple of our teammates were able to be there was great to hear their voices.

“Usually they have it right before the game and we’re not able to be a part of it. (Liberty Chief Operating Officer) Keia Clarke did a great job in putting that together,” Charles said. “In the past, (Liberty President) Isiah Thomas and (Liberty Vice President) Kristin Bernert did a great job as well to use that platform.”

In 2016, the Liberty wore (hashtag)BlackLivesMatter t-shirts to protest the deaths of black men and women in police-involved shootings. Then in 2017, the team focused on racial equality and gun violence and last year the focus was again on unity and equality.

“UNITY Day started a few years back when we got tired of seeing black and brown individuals being killed by police at an alarming rate,” Charles said. “So, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and we created shirts that said “Black Lives Matter.” Even though we received a lot of great attention from media, community and fans, we were fined by the WNBA.”

POWER POLL

A look at this week’s WNBA poll:

1. Washington (17-7): The Mystics took over the top spot in the standings and the power poll. Washington plays two of its next three games at home.

2. Los Angeles (15-8): The Sparks have been the hottest teams since the All-Star Break and have rolled to five consecutive wins.

3. Las Vegas (16-9): The Aces finish off the season with six of their final nine games on the road.

4. Connecticut (16-8): The Sun have cooled off, losing the first two games of their four-game road trip. They fell out of first place in the standings. They hope to right themselves against Phoenix and Seattle to close out the west coast swing.

5. Chicago (14-10): The Sky split games with Las Vegas and Los Angeles and now host those teams this week.

6. Seattle (14-11): Alysha Clark came up big against New York as lately All-Star Natasha Howard has been getting help from a variety of players. The Storm complete their four-game road trip with games at Washington and Seattle.

7. Minnesota (12-12): The Lynx finally have Seimone Augustus back from her early season knee surgery and not coincidentally have played better.

8. Phoenix (11-12): The Mercury have been ravaged by injuries lately and may be without Brittney Griner for three games because of her role in the fight that occurred against Dallas last Saturday.

0. Indiana (9-16): The Fever have won three of their last four games and one more victory will give them their most in three seasons.

10. New York (8-15): Turnovers continue to plague the Liberty during their five-game skid. They had 19 against Seattle and are second in the league averaging 15.9 a game.

11. Dallas (7-17): It’s been a difficult season for Dallas and they will be short-handed this week as suspensions were handed down for the fight that occurred in the Phoenix game last Saturday.

12. Atlanta (5-19): The Dream’s season continues to be a nightmare as the team has lost nine straight games.