WNBA’s Natasha Cloud challenges athletes to fight racism: ‘Your silence is a knee on my neck’

In a time where many athletes and protesters around the United States are speaking up about police brutality against black people, Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has found silence to be the most deafening.

Cloud shared a powerful message in an essay, titled “Your Silence is a Knee on My Neck,” for The Players’ Tribune on Saturday: Either join the cause, or else be considered complicit in the racist treatment toward black people that has been going on for centuries.

“Because there’s no new information to wait for,” Cloud wrote. “There’s no other side to hear from. There’s no safe space, no neutral territory to chill in and sit these issues out. Athletes, if you’re reading this . . . know that we see you. I’ll repeat that: WE SEE YOU. I love y’all — and like I said, I’m so proud to be one of y’all. But you’re being judged right now the same as everyone else — and if you’re silent, you are part of the problem. 

“If you’re silent, I don’t f— with you, period. Because I’m just out here trying to stay alive. And your knee is on my neck.”

Cloud was happy to praise many of her fellow athletes who have spoken out. She gave props to Celtics forward Jaylen Brown for organizing a walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial site in Atlanta. She said that former NBA player Stephen Jackson’s mourning of George Floyd was powerful. And she commended her fellow WNBA players, specifically Liberty center Amanda Zahui B. and Mystics teammate and two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, for making their voices heard.

“When I see Elena Delle Donne posting on her IG story the other day? You have no idea what that does to my spirits, or what that means to me. I saw Elena’s post, and I was just like, ‘Ahhh, I f—ing KNEW my teammate would have my back. I knew it.’ And that felt so good,” Cloud wrote. “That’s the MVP of our league, one of the most famous white basketball players alive, and now everyone is seeing how real she is. How she didn’t hesitate — she got in there. And it was like, even that ONE post on its own, it took just a little bit of the weight off my shoulders. It made me feel just a little less powerless in this world.”

MORE: Brian Flores, more athletes react to George Floyd death, Minneapolis riots

Cloud opened the essay by candidly talking about her experience as a black woman in America. 

“Right now, there’s only one thing that’s on my mind,” she wrote. “Right now, if we’re being really real? As a black person in America, there’s only one thing that could possibly BE on my mind. And that’s fearing for my life. It’s fearing for my life, and for the life of every other person who is guilty of nothing more than belonging to a race that this country has been built on oppressing. It’s wanting to stay alive — in a time where the reality for a lot of people is that my staying alive doesn’t matter.”

“You start to notice how many forces there are in place to make sure that 2020 isn’t really all that much different from 2010,” she continued. “Or 2000. Or 1990. Or 1920. You start to understand how the systems of power in this country, they’re not built to create possibility or opportunity for black people — they’re built to lock them out.”

Cloud said what bothers her most about institutional racism in the U.S. isn’t even the active prejudice, but the indifference with which those racist acts are met by so many.

“But you know what crushes me most of all? It’s how the systems of power in this country are built so strong, and with such prejudice, that in order for white supremacy to flourish — People don’t even have to actively be about white supremacy. They don’t have to carry the burden of being openly racist, or waste their energy on being loudly oppressive. It’s not like that at all.

“All they have to do is be silent.”

Cloud argued that athletes should be using their platforms to take a stand, saying “neutrality about black lives might as well be murder,” and those who refuse to speak out are “the knee on George Floyd’s neck.”