WNBA stars Hayes, Jones, Cloud to sit 2020 season

Phoenix Mercury v Atlanta Dream Tiffany Hayes is a phenomenal scorer for the Atlanta Dream. | Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Tiffany Hayes has announced her decision to forego the 2020 WNBA season. On Monday, Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun and LaToya Sanders of the Washington Mystics announced their decisions to opt out due to concerns about health amid the coronavirus pandemic. Natasha Cloud announced that she will skip the season to further her social justice work.

The Atlanta Dream announced on Tuesday that one of their star players, Tiffany Hayes, has opted out of the 2020 WNBA season. Hayes said in a statement, “I believe there are much more important things (than basketball) to be thinking about in this moment” — leaving it open-ended as to whether she is sitting out due to racial injustice, the coronavirus or both.

Hayes, a 30-year-old guard who has played her entire career in Atlanta, possesses a career scoring average of 13.6 points per game. With her decision, Hayes joins Dream teammate Renee Montgomery, who announced last week that she will be skip the 2020 season to work on social justice reform.

The worst team in the league in 2019 with an 8-26 record, Atlanta has now lost two key pieces, leaving a lot of pressure on new additions Courtney Williams and Chennedy Carter, the latter of whom was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Hayes’ announcement comes on the heels of a slew of others.

On Monday, the Connecticut Sun announced that their best player, Jonquel Jones, will not be playing in the 2020 WNBA season. In 2019, she averaged 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, was a legitimate MVP candidate and led the Sun through a five-game WNBA Finals series with the eventual champion Washington Mystics.

Jones said regarding her decision:

After careful thought and consideration I’ve decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social, and familial growth. ... 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. I’d like to thank the Connecticut Sun organization, my teammates and fans for their unwavering support and understanding. While I won’t be competing this year I’m looking forward to lacing up with my teammates in 2021 and continuing the pursuit for a WNBA championship. Wishing the entire league and everyone involved a healthy and enjoyable season. Go Sun!

Later in the day, the Mystics announced Natasha Cloud, another key player from the 2019 WNBA Finals win, will sit the 2020 season along with teammate LaToya Sanders. Cloud is opting out of the season to further her social justice work while Sanders, who battles anemia, cited “health and family” as her reasons for not playing.

Cloud, who averaged nine points and 5.6 assists last year, has been one of the most vocal WNBA leaders of social justice reform movements. In a statement, she said:

This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career but I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season. ... There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am 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 for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.

The WNBA season is tentatively scheduled to tip off in late July from IMG Academy in Florida, where reported coronavirus cases are spreading rapidly.