About 30 minutes before the Lynx were supposed to board the bus for their game Wednesday, the news broke.
In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting Sunday in Kenosha, Wis., the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks weren't going to play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
What occurred over the next few hours has changed the way we look at sports, and the way athletes balance the games they play and the causes they believe in.
Soon the entire NBA playoff slate Wednesday was postponed. By the time the Lynx got to the arena at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., captains Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier were huddling with their teammates and with other teams in the arena. Washington, Atlanta and Los Angeles were already there.
What should they do?
"We wanted to stand together as a league," Collier said. "When we got there, we joined them, and it was really hard. There was a lot of back and forth."
Ultimately, the decision: No games, a pause in the 22-game season that continued into a day of reflection Thursday.
The Lynx beat Atlanta 88-79 Friday in the first WNBA action since Tuesday. The postponed game against the Los Angeles Sparks has been rescheduled for 9 p.m. Monday, the WNBA announced Friday.
After the team's shootaround Friday morning, Fowles and Collier talked about what has happened this week, how the decision was made not to play, and how difficult it would be to return to action when the game seems less important to many than issues of social justice.
"Since the day that we decided not to play the games, it's been a little somber," Collier said. "Just because it's such a heavy issue. We had a lot of players meetings and things like that to figure out what we wanted our combined message to be. It's hard, because we came here to play basketball, but our focus the last couple days hasn't been on that, it's been on bigger issues that are obviously more important."
Fowles, nursing a calf injury, can't play. But if she could, she said returning to action would be hard. Given the issues, two days off isn't enough to digest it all.
"Like Phee said, we never want to de-emphasize the fact we're here to play basketball," Fowles said. "But at the same time, we're two African American women and these things are happening close to home."
Said Collier: "For me, personally, I like the distraction of being able to play the game to get away. Each person handles things differently. Syl said what she feels. Personally, I'm happy to be playing because things are so heavy in your real-life world."
Arriving at a decision
It was clear Wednesday that Washington didn't want to play, but the pressure of the compacted season and the mechanics of it working were factors. But when the Mystics didn't feel they should play, there was only one decision.
"It was clear for every other team out there," Fowles said. "They were the ones who were going to set the tone. The platform would have been different if they had played and everyone else had played. It says a lot that we were in unison."
A day later, during a roundtable discussion on ESPN with members of the WNBA players associations leaders, the camera shifted to another gym, where all the players on every team were together, their arms locked.
"It was extremely powerful, and maybe people say this feels like a big moment," Collier said. "Even though we don't have as many eyes as maybe the men's side, we're doing our part in what we feel is right. It feels big. It feels like a monumental moment.
"So it was really cool to be with them. We're wearing the same thing for the same cause, standing arm in arm, it felt really powerful."
Back on the court
Still, as Collier said, the return to play carries a somber tone. The season began in the WNBA bubble with a pledge to keep social justice issues at the forefront. That desire has only grown.
But so has the frustration.
"It gets more and more exhausting seeing these things in the media, seeing people killed day after day," Collier said. "I think it was 112 people killed since George Floyd. So I think while the goal is still the same, it just weighs on us heavily that we're dedicating our season to this and we're not seeing any change so far. … There has to be a real change in our country."
So the Lynx — and the rest of the league — have returned to playing. But the bigger picture remains.
Collier said people watch sports sometimes more closely than politics.
"So it brings more eyes and more attention that athletes have been doing this," she said. "So I'm proud that they're doing it."