Mohegan — Jasmine Thomas, the Duke-educated point guard of the Connecticut Sun, couldn’t contain a wry grin.
“You know,” I said to her Friday, “the ‘shut up and dribble’ crowd isn’t going to like this.”
For the uninitiated: “Shut up and dribble” has become the de facto national anthem of the mammals who object to the concurrence of politics and sports, words famously belched by blatherer Laura Ingraham, who rebuked LeBron James, saying she wasn’t interested political advice from “someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.”
“Shut up and dribble” is inevitable because Thomas is about to have her own forum. I’m giving it to her because her opinion on the recent developments of Roe v. Wade is more relevant than mine.
I am a man. Thomas is a woman. No man gets to tell a woman what to do with her body. And so while I get to have an opinion — the exchange of ideas is what separates us from the Neanderthals — men cannot in good conscience be the definitive arbiters of this issue.
Thomas: “I am concerned. It’s about men making decisions about what women should do to their bodies. It’s not a decision I believe should be made by men. I strongly believe it’s a woman’s choice.”
Thomas and many other athletes haven’t merely found their voices in recent years. They’ve found support and safety, too, suddenly affecting change more than ever.
Example: Without the WNBA, the Rev. Raphael Warnock would be sermonizing at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church instead of his new digs in Washington, D.C., as Georgia’s first Black senator.
WNBA players spent the last half of 2020 wearing “Vote Warnock” shirts and supporting his candidacy against Atlanta Dream owner Kelly Loeffler, who openly opposed the Black Lives Matter movement. Loeffler denounced the right of her players to have a political voice and according to one published report, “posed for photos with a leading Klansman and refused to meet with WNBA players who invited her to a conversation about the campaign.”
Final score: Warnock 1, Loeffler 0.
Thomas: “I have more of an opportunity to use my voice. I feel more empowered to use my voice through the support of my family, my job, the Sun organization and the league. You don’t feel on an island. You are still going to have a job and be respected. It’s a safer space to share your opinions.”
Some readers may shrug at the significance of having a safe space to share an opinion. It’s a part of their existence, no more exceptional than rolling out of bed in the morning. But not if you’ve ever felt marginalized. Privilege hardly begets marginalization.
“There are so many reasons why it’s necessary to have access to abortions,” Thomas said. “Rape or very dramatic instances in which women aren’t in control over the situation. There are safety issues, times when women have to abort their pregnancies for the safety of that child who wouldn’t have been able to have a safe life or for themselves to be able to live past that pregnancy.”
Thomas did not ask to be heard about this issue. She agreed to talk after I sought her opinion. Her voice as a professional woman of child-bearing years with eclectic interests well beyond basketball deserves to be heard.
Perhaps you disagree. But I find a Duke-educated young woman more credible than Justice Alito and his alarmingly sectarian interpretation of the 234-year-old Constitution, whose words and ideas should not be viewed as Polaroids, but as motion pictures. Translation: They evolve. As should we all.
As Laurence H. Tribe, Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law at Harvard, wrote recently in the Boston Globe: “Reading Alito’s draft, you quickly learn that all the rights people have long taken for granted — like the rights to decide whom to marry, whether to use birth control, with whom to have sex, how to raise your children, and an endless list of other freedoms — will no longer be protected unless you can point to language in the Constitution expressly guaranteeing those rights, or convince five Supreme Court justices that they are ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'”
“Ordered liberty” originally determined which provisions of the Bill of Rights would be upheld through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Sure feels as though men get to do most of the ordering here though.
“It’s a very responsible and tough decision for an adult to make,” Thomas said, “to not be in a situation to raise a child. Bringing life into this world is not to be taken lightly. If someone believes they can’t do that, it’s a resource they should have. It’s a scary and sad time if our country goes back to a time when women don’t have resources and access to that.”
And for the “shut up and dribble” crowd? Cue the wry grin.
“An old, ignorant response,” Thomas said. “Tired of it. I feel like we haven’t given that reaction much attention lately. We’ve been able to push forward and create change. We’ve shown as women of the WNBA we are extremely powerful. We have already influenced political action in this country.”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro