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WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike repeats as sportsmanship award winner

Cassandra Negley
·3-min read

It’s been a big year for Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike. In the latest addition to her 2020 story, she was named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner by the WNBA on Tuesday

Ogwumike won the award for a second consecutive season. She joins Sue Bird (2017-18) as the only back-to-back winners.

The nine-year veteran and president of the WNBA Players Association started the year by brokering a new collective bargaining agreement, and months later, she helped the league host a bubble season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. She’s also guided players through a first-time social justice council and action during the nation’s reckoning with race.

Ogwumike named sportsmanship award winner

The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is presented to a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity. It’s named in honor of the late Kim Perrot, who won the first two WNBA championships with the Houston Comets. The point guard died in August 1999 after a seven-month battle with cancer.

“The 2020 WNBA season is dedicated to Breonna Taylor and combating systemic racism, sexism and other social injustices," Ogwumike said in a statement, via ESPN. “It’s an honor to receive the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, which I believe this year represents all the hard work from the players on and off the court to use our collective platform to enact change.”

The award is voted on by a national panel of 46 sportswriters and broadcasters. Ogwumike received 21 votes. She is the third two-time winner of the award, joining Bird and Tamika Catchings (2010, 2013).

Ogwumike was the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft and that season’s Rookie of the Year. In 2016, she won league MVP honors. She averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds over 18 games in the “wubble.” The Sparks earned the No. 3 seed, but lost to the Connecticut Sun in the single-elimination second-round game.

Ogwumike leading change in WNBA ranks

Marie Gulich to the left in a black Black Lives Matter shirt. Nneka Ogwumike in a jersey, clapping on the bench.
Nneka Ogwumike won a second consecutive sportsmanship award. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Ogwumike has served as the WNBPA’s president since 2016. The association opted out of its CBA in November 2018 and coined the hashtag “Bet On Women” while doing it. They came to an agreement on a new one in January of this year that included raises, more marketing opportunities and better family benefits.

After a frenzied free agency period grew interest and excitement, COVID-19 hit and forced the draft to go virtual and the start of the season to be pushed back. Ogwumike, along with the rest of the WNBPA executive committee, worked with the WNBA and commissioner Cathy Engelbert to get the season going safely. There have been zero positive tests while inside the bubble site; the WNBA postponed Game 1 of a semifinal series on ABC when it received inconclusive results.

Yet, Ogwumike and the league’s biggest moment came in each game as they dedicated it to Breonna Taylor and “Say Her Name.” All jerseys had Breonna Taylor’s name on the back. Each week the social justice council created ahead of the season honored a different woman impacted by police brutality and systemic racism. And when Jacob Blake was shot by police, they decided not to play games and stood in solidarity on the court. They took the day off as one of reflection.

The league and its players have continued to seek justice for Taylor’s family, both after the settlement with the city of Louisville and the grand jury decision last week. They have also devoted their time to voting rights and urging fans to register to vote.

For their “unified leadership and dedication to the WNBA Justice Movement,” all WNBA players were named recipients of the WNBA Community Assist Award presented by State Farm.

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