After opting out of playing in the WNBA last year to campaign against racism and police brutality, Broomall native Natasha Cloud has gotten back on the court this month as she prepares to return to the Washington Mystics.
Cloud’s return to action has come with USA Basketball’s 3x3 program, which is preparing for this summer’s Olympics. Though Cloud won’t be going to Tokyo, she’s been at a training camp in San Antonio — across town from the NCAA women’s tournament — as a sort of practice-squad player.
“It’s been really hard to get back in shape after taking a year off, obviously,” Cloud said Monday on a Zoom call with media from the camp.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic compounded things further for the St. Joseph’s and Cardinal O’Hara product. She hadn’t been able to do much training beyond one-on-one workouts with her trainer. Sunday was her first day back in a real on-court environment.
“This was a huge advantage for me to come and be with Team USA, and just get a feel back for it,” she said. “I felt great, I didn’t feel rusty. I felt a little winded for sure, but I felt good to be back out there with the best of the best.”
While Cloud is returning to the court, she isn’t letting up at all in her anti-racism campaigning. You’d expect nothing less from a player who led marches in the nation’s capital with colleagues from the Mystics, with whom she won a WNBA championship in 2019; and the NBA’s Wizards, owned by the same entity. Cloud has also long been an activist in a WNBA that leads the way in not sticking to sports.
“It’s a continued fight,” she said, putting a spotlight on the Georgia legislature’s adoption last week of a bill that severely restricts voting access in the state. President Joe Biden called the legislation “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” and Cloud was just as blunt.
“Our rights are trying to be taken away yet again … and it’s no secret that again it is an attack at Black and brown communities,” she said. “And so, the fight remains the same. We will continue to fight in every facet because there’s not only one thing that we fix. I mean, we are talking about oppressing systems that have been set into place to keep Black and brown people out for 400-plus years now.”
Along the way in the call, another subject came up that’s close to Cloud’s heart: the potential for Philadelphia to get a WNBA team of its own. Cloud made headlines a few weeks ago when she told a few outlets that she’d heard there was something afoot, including telling WRNB 100.3-FM that “it has been in the works for a year-and-a-half.”
She offered similar assertions this week. But she also made sure to hedge her remarks so people won’t think the progress is farther along than it actually is. There’s still a long way to go.
“I just know that there’s really good people that are trying to bring a team to Philly,” Cloud said. “It’s been in the works for a little bit, and if I can help in any facet, you know, Philly is home for me. D.C. is a second home, but Philly is, you know, what helped raise me, not only as a player but as a person. So I want to be able to give back to where I’m from in that community as well, especially now.”
She intentionally didn’t give any specifics about who is involved or about what a timeline could be.
“Everyone is trying to twist my words” about Philadelphia getting a team, she said.
But she is certainly not going to stop lobbying for it. She would know as well as anyone how difficult it has been for local women’s basketball fans to prove to institutions with influence in the region that there’s demand for a WNBA team.
“I’m putting it out there, and people are trying, and I hope it happens, and I would love to be a part of it in any facet,” she said.