Coronavirus sports roundup: Mercury honor Breonna Taylor; fake fans to highlight games at Chase Field

The Phoenix Mercury announced that players will display Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys this season. (Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Mercury)

Brianna Turner (left) and Brittney Griner show off the jersey the team will be wearing beginning with their first game of the season on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Mercury)

PHOENIX – The WNBA and NBA have allowed players to choose a variety of social justice messages they would like on the back of their jerseys once regular season basketball resumes.

The Phoenix Mercury will be honoring the life of Breonna Taylor by showcasing her name on the back of every player’s uniform when their season begins Saturday against the L.A. Sparks in Bradenton, Fla., the team announced.

And the Suns’ Deandre Ayton told the media on a Zoom webinar call on Thursday that he plans to have the messaging “respect us” on the back of his jersey.

Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police when Louisville officers came into her apartment abruptly on March 13 while using a no-knock warrant to search for drugs during a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment and the warrant was made in connection with a suspect who did not share the apartment with Taylor in any way.

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In the NBA, a list of social justice messages that the league and the NBA Players Association agreed upon, reports ESPN’s Marc Spears, include: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
For Ayton, his choice symbolizes meanings both on and off the court.

“Respect what’s going on,” Ayton said. “Everybody respecting each other (off the court) and just the Phoenix Suns and the league. Us being respected. Us showing what we have and people respecting what we work for. It just goes a long way with the ‘respect us’ phrase.

“A lot of people chose equality. I’m with that, but I wanted to go both ways. Not just off the court, but on the court as well.”

As far as living in the NBA bubble, it’s been a foreign experience for Ayton.

“The environment is just different,” Ayton said. “Just seeing everybody and knowing that we’re going to play you in the next hour or so, staying in the same hotel. It’s just a totally different environment and I just can’t wait to start playing.”

Although Ayton says the players are friendly with each other now, it won’t be that way come tip-off of regular season games.

“When it starts cracking down to business, there’s going to be less smiles around the hotel room or around the hotel lobby when you see a different team.”

The Phoenix Suns are set to resume the NBA regular season against the Washington Wizards on July 31st as the team looks to make a playoff push.

Fake fans? You bet

Fans will be at Chase Field for Diamondbacks game this season.

Just not real ones.

Fox announced Thursday it will debut virtual fans in its live MLB broadcasts during the 2020 season, shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season kicks off Thursday when the New York Yankees face the Washington Nationals.

Although the stadiums will be free of fans, on Fox telecasts empty seats will be replaced by CGI fans. Crowd noise will be piped in and if the game is lopsided late, the virtual fans will start emptying out.

Chase Field is included in promotions for the game.

The excitement for baseball appears to extend to advertisers, too. Ads for Fox Sport’s regular-season package are 90 percent sold out already, the Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday.

Pac-12 plans coming into focus

Arizona and Arizona State will start their football seasons on Sept. 19 if all goes as planned, the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday.

Even though cases of COVID-19 have surged in several areas of the Pac-12 footprint, including Arizona, the conference is moving forward with plans to play a 10-game conference only schedule.

Training camps wouldn’t start until mid-August and the Pac-12 championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas could be played on any of three weekends, the report said.

An announcement from the conference is expected to come soon.

News Broadcast Producer, Phoenix

Derrick Smith expects to graduate in December 2021 with a degree in journalism and a minor in digital audiences. Smith, who has interned with Hart Talent Management, is working in the Phoenix News Bureau.