Simon Augustus first realized his abilities when he landed on the cover of “Sports Illustrated for Women” at the age of 14. she Next Michael Jordan? “
Looking back at the moment when WNBA legend Augustus, who retired after 15 seasons this year, realized his potential, think about the Capitol High School stand in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She continued to lead the team. He scored 3,600 points for the state title and lost just seven games in four years.
The school is located in the heart of the predominantly black neighborhood where she grew up. She’s a neighborhood she described as “there are so many people who helped keep my game as it is.” But with each victory, the crowds gathered to see Augustus play in the Capitol gymnasium began to look different.
“When I saw him driving down the street a year ago, he accepted the same white people who were zooming in by hitting the lock with his elbows suddenly coming to the gym and wanted to experience whatever he had while watching. I was wondering. I play, “said Augustus.
Only then did Augustus become aware of the kind of changes that her supernatural abilities in court might allow her to push it away. “I think it hit me,” she said. “It’s just a melting pot, the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen.”
The legacy of Augustus as a player — a pioneer in women’s basketball, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and a cornerstone of four-time champion Minnesota Lynx, one of the great basketball dynasties — is unquestionable. But she is also one of the most positive and discreet activists in the sports world. Now, as an assistant coach at the Los Angeles Sparks, Augustus is helping players find the same comfort and freedom they did on the court and use their influence to find ways to defend the non-basketball community. ..
“How can I make this a safe place so that I can easily express myself in basketball?” She asks them.
Basketball has long served as such a haven for Augustus.
“To be honest, it was hard for me to be alone,” she explained when she was bullied in high school. “When I walked down the hallway every day, I got the following:” She is gay. She is gay. “
Augustus’ parents and family supported her, while others were hostile. “You said your parents came to my parents and said,’Your daughter is gay, so my daughter feels like gay,'” Augustus said. “People I’ve never met in my life blame me for choosing what my child is now expressing.”
At the same time, Augustus received almost all the praise that high school basketball players could expect. Then she sought to figure out how the racist heritage of the Deep South community she grew up in would shape the place she chose to play in college. Her home school, Louisiana State University, did not employ a black professor, Julian T. White, until 1971.
In the end, she decided to join LSU anyway. Instead of joining a well-established powerhouse like Tennessee or Connecticut, she wanted the opportunity to stay close to her home and build a winning program. “I had a lot of older blacks and said,’It was hard for me just to step into this campus, and I did it for you,'” Augustus said. rice field. “I think it helped give them a release. At least it’s peaceful enough that we can enjoy this moment.”
These experiences laid the foundation for Augustus’ transition to the publicly-faced activism. It demanded self-assurance and sensitivity. Her first foray into advocacy was just personal. She was published in the LGBTQ magazine The Advocate in May 2012 and will elaborate on her relationship with her current wife, LaTaya Varner, and will marry her.
Augustus’ profile is higher than ever, given that he just led Lynx to his first title in 2011 and was named the most valuable player in the finals of the year. But that decision was still dangerous. Timing is critical as the WNBA launched the league-wide LGBTQ pride program in 2014 many years ago, as Minnesotans vote for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November. was.
“It seemed like it was the first time I actually stepped in and used my voice,” Augustus said. “I felt like I was in a place in my life that was ready to be open with people. I don’t think it was a big surprise, but for those who needed it, it really helped. Many people came, saying, “I’ve been able to talk to my mom for the first time in 40 years.”
She continued to talk to the news media about the issue, telling herself as a rebuke for the proposed Minnesota amendment. It was defeated and same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states shortly after Augustus and Verner got married in 2015.
“When she came out in 2012 and started a lot of deliberate work in Minnesota on marriage equality, we saw Seimone and then other players in the WNBA really remind us of the athletes’ activities of the 1960s. I saw him start a conversation, “Anne said. Lieberman, director of policies and programs for athletes.
These conversations were less influential than in 2016, when Links stars, including Augustus, began publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. They opposed police atrocities, wore shirts during the warm-up, and for the same reason Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem after Philland Castile and Alton Sterling were killed by police. After setting up, I put up the slogan of the movement. In the NFL game.
For Augustus, both killings resonated deeply. She was talking about racial profiling by police outside Minneapolis in 2012. Castile was killed there four years later. The horn shop where Sterling was killed was the same one she bought snacks when she grew up in Baton Rouge.
“Obviously, we have been stopped by the police before,” Augustus said. “My dad was in the town of Minneapolis and was stopped by the police. It’s very likely that he was my dad, cousin, uncle, or someone.”
The WNBA fined the player in the shirt and then revoked the fine after protests by the player and the public. Four Lynx guards, all off-duty police officers, went out during the game in response to the player’s actions.
“The cops walked over us and left the target center wide open, allowing people to just join. If they want to come in and do something to us, the one who protects us. There was no one, “said Augustus. “Because we wore T-shirts, because people don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.”
Following the murder of George Floyd last year, the WNBA more actively encouraged players to work as part of their identity four years after Lynx first launched. “Now it’s like,’We’re celebrating you!'” And we said, “Well, you’re celebrating now, but years ago, letting you accept it. Was a little difficult, “said Augustus.
She still remembers the meeting where the league tried to get players to wear more makeup and more skimpy uniforms. And for her first few years, she was a player with a husband and children who seemed to get all the publicity. “They will say,’We don’t have a cool element,’ and I do.”we Cool, what are you talking about? “Augustus said. “The conversation we had to have was insane.”
In a statement sent by email in response to Augustus’ comments, Commissioner Kathy Engelbert quoted the LGBTQ + rights emphasis by the League’s Social Justice Council, which was established last season.
“The WNBA has long been one of the most comprehensive and welcoming sports leagues in terms of commitment to players and fans,” she added. There will always be more work to do. “
Augustus has always prioritized the game itself, but it makes no difference even now that she has become a coach. However, the seemingly easy way she integrated the fight for herself and her community into her basketball career can affect her protégé.
“She played the game with the talent and confidence to be the noisiest person in the room, but it’s not,” said Sparks coach Derek Fisher. “She just wants to help people get better and serve others.”