The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season got underway this past Saturday without a familiar face – Bahamian professional player with the Connecticut Sun Jonquel “JJ” Jones, who has developed into one of the better players in the league over the past four seasons.
Jones opted out of the 2020 season back on June 22, citing new coronavirus concerns. As a result of her opting out and not being “at-risk”, Jones was not eligible to receive her salary.
On Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Kyrie Irving announced that he has created a $1.5 million fund to supplement the income of WNBA players, like Jones, who are sitting out the season and are not receiving a salary. To qualify for the fund, a player has to explain her reason for opting out and not be receiving financial help from any other institution.
“Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,’’ Irving said in a statement.
The league and players agreed that players who are “at-risk” for the virus and opt out would receive full pay. Those who opt out and are not “at-risk” would not be penalized but would not receive their salary throughout the season.
There have been 14 players, including Jones and one coach, who opted out of the 2020 season. Other WNBA players who opted out who are not “at-risk” are Renee Montgomery, Liz Cambage, Tiffany Hayes, Chiney Ogwumike, Natasha Cloud and Jewel Lloyd. Seattle Storm Head Coach Dan Hughes also opted out.
Irving along with Cloud and Lloyd discussed challenges the players face in opting out.
Players will have a chance to apply for the funds through the KAI Empowerment Initiative’s website and must do so by August 11. Those who will receive some of the money will be told on August 24.
The Grand Bahamian made the announcement on her Instagram account to opt out, thanking the Sun organization for supporting her decision.
“After careful thought and consideration, I’ve decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in,” Jones posted. “I’d like to thank the Connecticut Sun organization, my teammates and fans for their unwavering support and understanding. While I won’t be competing this year, I’m looking forward to lacing up with my teammates in 2021 and continuing the pursuit for a WNBA championship. Wishing the entire league and everyone involved a healthy and enjoyable season. Go Sun!”
Jones has been busy on Twitter, showing her support for the WNBA. Over the weekend, NBA players showed their support for the WNBA with their pre-game and game attire. The Bahamian showed appreciation for their support.
“Don’t support us because everyone else is doing it. Support us because you actually care, because you watch games and love the style of play, because you have daughters, sisters, mothers and other members of your community who can look at us and see themselves. Thanks NBA,” Jones posted.
The league cut down its 34-game regular season format to 22 games with its normal playoff format. Like the NBA, they are in a bubble, playing all of their games at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Sun officially tipped off its season on Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx. Jones showed support for her team before the start of the game.
“Safe to say, this is the energy I’m bringing today! Good luck Connecticut Sun as we start our season today! I’ll be yelling at the TV and telling the refs off all game long,” Jones posted on Instagram.
The Sun fell to the Lynx, 77-69, falling apart in a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 27-12. Alyssa Thomas led the Sun in that game with 20 points.
In their second game on Tuesday, they fell to the Washington Mystics in a rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals. The Mystics won that game 94-89. DeWanna Bonner finished with 29 points in the loss for the Sun.
The Sun return to action tonight when they play the Los Angeles Sparks at 10 p.m. They will look to avoid opening the season in a 0-3 winless hole.
Jones is currently on Grand Bahama riding out a two-week lockdown as COVID-19 cases spike on that island. That lockdown started on Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m. and ends on Friday, August 7 at 5 a.m. It looks like she is picking up a new hobby – flying drones, according to her posts.
Jones finished third in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award last season, and in February, inked a multi-year deal to remain with the Sun. She led the team in points, rebounds and blocks last season, and proved to be one of the top stars in the league, leading the Sun within one game of winning the WNBA title.
The sixth overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft averaged 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and two blocks a year ago – 12th in the league in scoring, leading the way in rebounds for the second time in her four-year career, and tied with Brittney Griner in blocks. Jones shot 44.8 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from three-point land. She raised her level of play in the playoffs, averaging 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.