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WNBA announces plans to begin season amid coronavirus

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The debut of Liberty No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu may be right around the corner.

The WNBA on Monday announced plans for a 22-game regular season that would begin in late July at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and be followed by a traditional playoff that would run through October.

The 2020 WNBA season was set to start on May 15 but was suspended in early April due to the coronavirus.

Players will receive a full salary despite the season being shorter than the 36-game slate that was initially planned, and those considered high risk for the virus could opt-out and still earn their full paycheck.

Players with children will be permitted to bring a caregiver with them.

The IMG Academy, which has four courts, will serve as the site for training camp, games and housing, the WNBA said, though the league also is exploring the possibility of playing games at other sites south of Tampa that might be better for broadcasts, according to the Associated Press.

Sabrina Ionescu
Sabrina IonescuAP

The league said it is “working with medical specialists, public health experts and government officials” on protective guidelines, stating that the “top priority” will be maintaining the health and safety of players and staff.

Teams are expected to report to IMG Academy in early July for a team training camp period before games tip off later in the month. Regular-season matchups and times will be announced at a later date, according to the release.

The WNBA’s announcement also mentioned the league’s commitment to “build on its commitment to social justice,” as protests continue to engulf the country following the death of George Floyd last month.

“The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America, and it is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in the statement.

That message comes as Nets star Kyrie Irving last week held a conference call with players pushing for them to skip the NBA’s restart, which is slated to take place at Disney World in Orlando, in an effort to continue fighting systemic racism and police brutality.

More than 70 percent of the WNBA is black, according to the Associated Press.

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