CHICAGO _ It's been about three weeks since Chicago Sky guard Sydney Colson announced on Twitter she tested positive for COVID-19 _ and only recently have her symptoms started to fade.
For weeks, the virus drained her energy and left her sleeping through most of the day, taking away from her ability to train and prepare for the upcoming WNBA season. It also limited the work she wanted to do in the fight for racial justice, including posting on social media and making calls on behalf of Breonna Taylor and others.
As her health has started to improve, she's making her voice heard once again.
Colson will be one of the members of the league's Social Justice Council, a platform designed to continue addressing issues of inequality, implicit bias and racism while advancing conversations about social justice. She will wear Taylor's name on the back of her No. 51 jersey whenever she laces up for the Sky this season.
She was one of the many players in the league to offer a stern rebuke of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream and Georgia senator, for trying to stake a position against the Black Lives Matter movement in what Colson believes is an attempt to use the women in the WNBA as pawns for her own political gain.
Because of that reason, Colson does not want to discuss Loeffler any further.
As her teammates arrive for training camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a season that begins in 10 days, Colson is still recovering. Although her symptoms have started to improve, she tested positive recently, so she remains quarantined in her Houston home.
The Chicago Tribune caught up with Colson during a phone interview this week. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
_ What has your quarantine experience and recovery process been like from COVID-19? Are you experiencing any symptoms?
_ The first two weeks were hectic. Right before I got tested, I had this lingering ache behind my eye. I was just thinking maybe I'm not eating enough, or maybe I haven't given my body enough and I kind of dismissed it. And then I lost my sense of taste and smell completely before I was supposed to go report to Chicago for the voluntary workouts before Florida. I hit up our trainer and was like, I've lost my taste and smell and I think I might be positive, so I don't want to get on a flight. The first two weeks, it was nausea, extreme fatigue, I was sleeping like 16 hours in a day, taking like three naps a day, two hours max sometimes.
Didn't have an appetite, so I lost a lot of weight, couldn't work out because they didn't want my heart rate to rise without me seeing my bloodwork or my cardiologist saying I was OK. So, it was a lot. That kind of just shut everything down. The last week, I've had a little more energy and finally been able to start eating more again. Hopefully I'm right at the end.
_ What things are you doing to take care of yourself and your mental health?
_ Because of having been quarantined and I haven't been able to exercise, it's limited my ability to do other things to take my mind off of stuff. Simply because I've been in the house, I can't like go work out in the gym, because I'm still testing positive. So things I would normally do like just go outside even or go run or even get a workout in, haven't been really able to do that stuff. I started back reading more, which is I think a good thing. ("The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander and "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates are two titles she's working through right now). And then just watching comedies and shows that I just for like a brief moment to be able to escape what's going on for a little just to stay sane.
_ What steps do you have to take before you could potentially join the Sky in Florida?
_ After three days of being symptom-free, then I'd have to test negative twice before I can go to Florida. But once I am negative twice, I still need to see a cardiologist and get a physical done. And once I get to Florida, I'll have to be tested again in quarantine and tested again.
_ Do you have any reservations about going to Florida? Are you worried about the long-term effects of the coronavirus?
_ Definitely, especially at the height of me not feeling well, I don't know that I'm going to end up wanting to go. I tried to not think too negatively about it, was just hoping that I would recover soon, but yeah of course it's going to be a lingering thought in my mind.
Before I got sick, I was already questioning whether or not I wanted to go. Just based solely off of what we're going through (the country's racial reckoning). Once some time had gone past and I tried to think about it more and realizing that pretty much a lot of people have to keep this fight going within our communities and within this nation. They still have to work. So, I was trying to still be responsible in my own estimation what I think I can do. I can still be speaking out. I think I would actually have more power going in the bubble, being with a lot of other girls, now as a part of the Social Justice Council. I think there's more weight in me being around other people at this time, working and also having basketball to take my mind _ not off of what's going on, but just to have a little bit of something else to focus on. I just one day felt the clarity that I needed to go to still use my voice and have my voice be heard more loudly than I think it would if I stayed home.
_ How are you feeling about the return of sports and the role sports plays in the country's racial reckoning?
_ Well, I'm not saying that I think it's the best thing because I do think it will be taking attention off of what's going on in a way. But like I said, we also have our livelihood. We have to make money to survive in this world and make money to do the things that we'll want to do to help our communities. But I am all for the people who have chosen to not play. Because I was almost them. We can live in this world as Black people where we have to make these sorts of decisions. Like, what am I going to risk, me not being able to work to fight for something or still try to work and find a way to still fight for it, especially if I have a larger platform or I'm a part of an organization where I can do that. We know that we're being used in a way and being lied to in a way, and I guess we have to find our ways within these systems to still make the most of them until we can change or dismantle them.
_ What are your goals for the WNBA's Social Justice Council? And what role do you see that playing in the league this upcoming season?
_ A big thing for me is to be more educated. Like I told you, I've been able to start reading more and researching more and I think a lot of Black people have realized in these times that we don't know as much as we need to know either. But within the council, the education piece is going to be really important, us learning about a variety of things. We'll be learning about gun violence, LGBTQ rights, mental health awareness, racial justice and trying to make sure that we're making the most of our time in there and not just educating, but having an action side to it. Making sure that we actually do some things, and don't just wear shirts and not do anything, but figure out how we're going to give back to an organization, to a family, to a cause and not just make it be lip service. I'm excited about what will come from it.
_ What does it mean to you to wear Breonna Taylor's name on the back of your jersey?
_ We all know her story, we all still see 123 days later and the killers still haven't been arrested. For me, as a Black woman, it's going to be heavy to wear it. Not that I'm not already thinking about it, and Black people and Black women specifically aren't thinking about it every day since its happened, but the fact that you're going to see all these Black women in the league wearing it _ she could've been us. It's not really hyperbolic to say something like that because it could literally happen. It's heavy.
I've always already played with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder anyway, but this is just going to drive me just a little more. I think our union had a chance to speak to her mom and she approved it, obviously we didn't want to be disrespectful and just put it on there. It's really important that people understand that "Say Her Name" is a hashtag for a reason because Black women are not talked about enough when we're killed by police violence. I'm sure you could rattle off probably five names of guys that were killed that became movements, but for women, we don't get that same attention. So, I think the impact that it'll have for people to see her name on our jerseys every game that there's a televised WNBA game and someone is wearing it, my hope is that it keeps the conversation alive, that it makes her start trending again, that it makes them pay attention to the fact that we have not forgotten. And we will not stop talking about it until they are arrested and convicted.
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