WNBA stars say they're skipping 2020 season to fight for social justice, avoid COVID-19 spread

The league is planning to start its season in Florida in July.

At least five WNBA players, citing battles for social justice reform or concerns over the novel coronavirus, have said they plan to sit out this season.

Days after the league announced plans to launch the 2020 season in July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, players from the Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream and Connecticut Sun said they won't be playing.

Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery took to Twitter to make announcement on June 18.

"After much thought, I've decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season," she wrote. "There's work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn't going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!"

Tiffany Hayes, Montgomery's teammate, announced on Tuesday she's also opting out.

"This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment," Hayes said in a statement.

While Hayes did not explicitly mention her reasons for sitting out like Montgomery, their head coach, Nicki Collen, supported both players' decisions.

The WNBA on Wednesday tweeted: "We support our players who continue to be at the forefront of long overdue social change."

Two players from the 2019 WNBA champion Washington Mystics also made the "toughest decisions" of their careers, to not return to the court.

Natasha Cloud's comments were similar to Montgomery's in that she's decided to take a stand and is "more than an athlete."

"I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can't matter," Cloud wrote on Instagram.

Cloud marched at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C., last week to support Black Lives Matter and to celebrate Juneteenth.

Cloud's teammate LaToya Sanders also said she would be skipping this season.

"This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what's best for my health and family," said Sanders.

The Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones also said she wouldn't play because of health concerns.

"This was one of the toughest decisions I've made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in," Jones said in a statement.

Jones signed a multiyear contract with the team in February, but she's decided to "forgo the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth."

The WNBA said in a statement issued June 15: "The top priority continues to be the health and safety of players and staff, and the league is working with medical specialists, public health experts, and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."