Female Athletes Talk Social Justice, Postponed Olympics & Training in Quarantine Ahead of 2021 Games

E!'s own Erin Lim chats with Olympians Laurie Hernandez, Sydney McLaughlin, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Breanna Stewart for the "On Her Turf" panel

By Alyssa Ray Jul 23, 2020 8:36 PMTags
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Using their platform for good.

For the "On Her Turf" virtual athlete panel, hosted by E!'s own Erin LimOlympians Laurie Hernandez, Sydney McLaughlin, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Breanna Stewart touched on a variety of topics, including raising their voices for social issues.

"We all have very big platforms. So, I think with that comes a lot of responsibility, especially because people do limit us just to being athletes," American hurdler Sydney started off. "I think it's so important to understand that we're only athletes so much out of the day."

As she continued, Sydney reminded those tuning into the panel that "everyone has a platform" they can use, regardless of size.

"I think there's power in numbers," the 20-year-old athlete noted.

This conversation comes amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

Going off of Sydney's point, Laurie emphasized that while they are athletes, they are humans first and foremost.

"Yeah, I'm a gymnast! Like, yeah I'm a professional athlete, but I'm a human being before that," the gold medal winning gymnast expressed. "And taking care of people and helping other people is the foundation before anything else."

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As for how they are enacting real change, Breanna—who is a member of the WNBA's Social Justice Counsel—revealed how the organization is paying tribute to Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"On the back of our jerseys, it's gonna have Breonna Taylor and that'll be there for the whole season underneath our names," the professional basketball player explained. "We're working on getting messaging on the court, on the sideline or the baseline."

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However, as Breanna articulated on the panel, the Social Justice Counsel wants to "do more than just wear a T-shirt." In fact, the WNBA power forward discussed a potential foundation to support Black organizations.

"This is something that needs to become our new normal," she added.

Fencer Ibtihaj, who said she's been "an activist my entire life," highlighted the importance of advocating for her community.

"I feel like I've been an activist my entire life and I think that is just part of the role in being Black in America, you don't have a choice," she said. "But to learn to, not just to advocate for yourself but, advocate for your community."

She also shared, "Any inch forward is a step in the right direction."

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As this virtual panel aired a day before what would've been the start of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Erin had the athletes weigh in on their training in quarantine and how they're coping with the games' delay.

For Laurie, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic inspired a move across the country so that she could be with her family. Yet, that meant she had to be 2,000 miles away from her coaches, who are based in Orange County, Calif. 

"People that are overseeing here are absolutely wonderful," Hernandez said. "I kind of miss that dynamic, but again it's a new normal, and I also know that I'm very privileged because I have a place to go."

In regard to the postponement? The gold and silver medalist from the Rio games said the delay was "really helpful" since it gave her "a lot more time to train."

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Sydney's biggest training hurdle, no pun intended, was that many tracks were closed at the start of the pandemic.

"We may or may not have been jumping fences for a little while to get on the track," she quipped. "And I may or may not have gotten stuck on the fence."

She said they've since gotten "back to it."

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During the training update, Breanna opened up about life inside the "Wubble," AKA the WNBA bubble.

"It's just a lot! You know, we're cramming in a season in a short amount of days," Breanna shared. "It's gonna be like, 22 games in 50 days, when nobody has played a game since March."

As for the Olympic games, Breanna said she's happy they were just postponed, not canceled.

"I can't imagine how it is for people who have yet to qualify and still having to really restart that all over again, because it's just tough," she concluded.

You can watch the entire panel here or in the full YouTube video above!

(E! and NBC Sports are both a part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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