WNBA teams, players step up to help Texas after hurricane

NEW YORK — Brittney Griner felt helpless watching Houston get decimated by Hurricane Harvey.

The Phoenix Mercury star grew up there and constantly talked to her family during the storm to make sure everyone was OK. Fortunately, they were safe and there was no damage to their home. She also found it uplifting to hear some of her cousins had taken their boat out, going with friends to rescue victims.

“It was super tough not being able to do anything, not be able to help out my family,” Griner said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “But to hear what my cousins and their friends were doing with their boats, that made me feel a lot better.”

Griner and many other WNBA players and teams are finding their own ways to lend a hand to Houston and the surrounding area.

“Helping and supporting one another in crisis — regardless of race, religion or social station — are reminders of what the historic values of our country are,” WNBA President Lisa Borders told the AP. “I am very proud of our teams and players for supporting the relief efforts and encouraging others to do the same.”

Griner is hosting a breakfast Sunday to raise money, and her team is holding an auction after their final regular season game that day. The Mercury centre said she’s donating to the auction a pair of shoes she wore at the Olympics that was signed by the entire U.S. national team.

“It’s where I grew up. That’s my home,” Griner said. “They raised me there and supported me throughout my whole career. It’s important I give back to my community.”

That sentiment was echoed by Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike, who hails from Cypress, Texas. Like Griner, she was fortunate that her family was safe and didn’t have any real damage from the storm.

Ogwumike, who is out for the season with an injury, brainstormed with Sun vice-president Amber Cox to come up with a way to have WNBA teams raise money. Cox spent a few years in Texas working with the Houston Dynamo and felt a strong affinity for the city.

The team will donate $1 for every fan that comes to their playoff game on Sept. 10. If the arena sells out, that would be a $10,000 donation. Other WNBA teams are donating proceeds from ticket sales and hosting food drives.

Her sister, Nneka, who is the reigning MVP of the league, donated $1,000 and that was matched by many of her Los Angeles Sparks teammates.

New York, Washington and Indiana have already held fundraisers for Houston, raising over $45,000.

“It’s a sisterhood,” said Ogwumike. “It’s so great seeing all these teams pull together for Texas.”

The San Antonio Stars were home when the hurricane hit and they, too, were fortunate to only see a moderate amount of rain and wind. Led by Shay Murphy, the team and coaching staff went to a food bank they had been working with for the past two months to help serve meals and make snacks for the homeless and people displaced by the storm.

“That’s something I’ve always done back home in LA,” Murphy said. “I love to give back. Houston is such a close town to us and we wanted to do our part. Bring food and clothing and let everyone know that even though it’s not right there, we’re all affected by it. It’s human nature to help others. You don’t have to be a millionaire to donate. A dollar or a can of beans is needed and helpful too.”

The Dallas Wings have their final regular season home game Sunday and are donating money for every ticket sold. The team has partnered with Dallas Women’s Foundation to support agencies across North Texas that are providing relief for impacted families. In addition, the game will be livestreamed on TIDAL, the global music and entertainment service owned by Jay-Z.

Viewers watching the game will be able to donate to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funds with the Red Cross and Dallas Women’s Foundation throughout the livestream.

“This Sunday, we are Texas strong, and with our hearts, we’re playing for those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. “TIDAL partnering with the WNBA is the intersection of culture and an example of how we can all give back. TIDAL’s international reach not only brings the game to our overseas fans, but it also raises the awareness of all those in need.”

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