Mystics’ Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders will skip WNBA season

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud and post player LaToya Sanders, starters on the 2019 WNBA champions, announced Monday that they will sit out this season.

Cloud, 28, said she wants to focus on social justice issues, much like Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery said last week when she announced that she would not play in 2020.

“There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete,” Cloud said in a statement. “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 for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”

Cloud has been with the Mystics throughout her five-year WNBA career and averaged career bests of 9.0 points and 5.6 assists last season.

Sanders, 33, did not play in 2017 and dealt with anemia during the 2018 season but still played 28 games in the regular season and nine in the playoffs that year.

“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,” Sanders said. “I wish my teammates and the entire Mystics family the best this season, and I will continue to watch and support them.”

Sanders averaged 6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Mystics last season. She was a first-round draft pick by the Phoenix Mercury in 2008 and has spent the past five seasons with the Mystics organization.

Last week, the WNBA announced plans to play a 22-game regular season with standard playoffs in Bradenton, Florida, starting in late July and ending in October. The Women’s National Basketball Players Association voted to accept the league’s proposal, with 77% of players voting yes.

The MVP of the WNBA, the Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne, has not announced whether she will play this season. She has dealt with Lyme disease in the past.

Washington coach and general manager Mike Thibault voiced support for both Cloud and Sanders.

“We respect and support Natasha’s decision to prioritize her life and goals,” Thibault said. “Her commitment to social justice issues is of utmost importance to her and, therefore, to the Mystics organization. We will continue to be partners with her and all of our players on their commitment to social justice reform as we go forward into this season and beyond.

“We understand and respect LaToya’s decision and will miss her both on and off the court as we head toward the upcoming season. She has been a big part of our success over the last several years, and we look forward to her continuing to contribute for us in 2021.”