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Storm star Sue Bird finds her voice, and becomes an influential advocate for social justice

Percy Allen, The Seattle Times on

Published in Basketball

Behind the scenes, Bird was instrumental in her role as WNBA Players Association vice president during negotiations on a historic collective-bargaining agreement that dramatically improved salaries for players.

And publicly, Bird has engaged in a feud with Atlanta Dream co-owner and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has been critical of the league's support of Black Lives Matter.

Bird pushed WNBA players to wear "Vote Warnock" T-shirts to games this week to support Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat who is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat.

"It's been awesome and very inspiring and very admirable," said Alysha Clark, who is Bird's longest-tenured Storm teammate. "As an athlete, to speak up for any issue that you're passionate about, there's always going to be people that disapprove and who don't want to see you as more than an athlete.

"That takes courage to stand in the face of all of that knowing the risk of standing and speaking on truth. I admire her growth in that area and willingness to want to come out of her shell to help others."

Looking back, Bird has many wonderful memories and few regrets about an 18-year WNBA career that began in 2002 when the Storm selected her No. 1 overall in the draft.

She wishes she would have taken a stand on issues earlier, but as Auriemma often says, "Basketball is not a game of how to, it's when to."

 

"As you get older, you get a little more confident and a little more comfortable," Bird said. "Some people are like that right away. For me it took some maturing and getting comfortable in my skin."

And today's sports culture is more receptive than ever toward outspoken women athletes.

"I don't think how I view things is much different now than when I first started," Bird said. "But now female athletes are in a place where they truly have that microphone and that platform."

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