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Thursday, January 27, 2022

New Voices: For social justice, Coach Reeve should give up one of her jobs

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Editor’s Note: This article, part of the New Voices collection, was written by a first-time contributor to the Star Tribune Opinion. For more information about our efforts to expand the range of views we continually publish, see tinyurl.com/StribNewVoices.

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Sheryl Reeve believes that women, especially women of color, should have more opportunities to lead in the WNBA.

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Fortunately, she can achieve this on her own.

Reeve is the head coach and general manager for the Minnesota WNBA team, Lynx, who, along with Star Tribune, owns Glen Taylor. Reeve is good at both jobs: She’s a coaching legend in women’s basketball (three-time WNBA coach of the year, four-time world champion, and recent head coach of the US Women’s National Team), and she recently won the League’s CEO of the Year award.

She is also a leading advocate of social justice. After the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile, Team Reeve were the first to publicly call for police reform, with players wearing T-shirts that read “Change Begins With Us” across all caps. Coach Reeve was also an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter and supported the game’s cancellation after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.

She said at the time, “You can’t change with people like us sitting there and accepting it. It takes courage and sacrifice.”

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Reeve also advocates hiring women of color to lead WNBA teams. For its part, it pledged to hire only assistant coaches, prioritizing women of color.

But in the words of Reeve himself, change requires courage and sacrifice. And in this case, “Change begins with…” her.

In the name of the social justice she herself champions, Reeve must give one of her leadership positions with Lynx to a woman of color.

That would be brave. That would be a sacrifice.

More importantly, it’s not a very big sacrifice either. Reeve holds not one but two jobs at the top of her career. By being “only” a head coach or general manager of a professional team, she can give a woman of color a great opportunity, all while maintaining her livelihood and notoriety in a profession she loves.

As a bonus, Reeve will undoubtedly choose her successor. She’s the general manager, after all, but even if she isn’t, she has an “income” with senior management: She’s married to Carly Knox, Lynx’s chief commercial officer.

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That’s right, the Reeve-Knox family holds three senior positions in the Lynx organization. Perhaps they could spare one of them, especially for a cause they both support loudly. (Knox also serves on the WNBA Diversity Hiring Task Force.) They can even choose which of their jobs to give up on, and who will get it.

Come to think of it, this doesn’t sound like a sacrifice at all. Reeve said taking on her new role with Team USA would make life “more stressful”. Passing the wand can be a relief and a privilege, too.

Reeve will likely be in the midst of renegotiating her contract, which expires after next season. As an award-winning coaching and executive legend, she has nothing left to prove. She has all the leverage.

Coach Reeve, now is the time to provide women of color with a high-profile opportunity in professional women’s sports. Change starts with you.

PA Jensen writes about politics, sports, and rural life at RuralityCheck.com. He lives in Duluth with his wife and son. Twitter: @P_A_Jensen

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