New York Liberty signs Layshia Clarendon as free agent

WNBA guard Layshia Clarendon just wrapped up a whirlwind week. It started in Serbia and ended in Chicago, featured her playing with Team USA in a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, signing with the New York Liberty as a free agent, and taking part in a minicamp that concluded with a seat at the NBA All-Star Game.

First, the most impactful event for this gender non-conforming sports pioneer, and perhaps the most personal news, is the beginning of free agency. The WNBA announced she is leaving the Connecticut Sun and signed with the New York Liberty on Feb. 10. Clarendon, who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns, had one season in Connecticut, where she averaged 6.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 2.1 APG.

“Layshia is an elite facilitator and floor general with an extremely high basketball IQ,” Liberty Head Coach Walt Hopkins said in a team statement to Elite Sports NY. “She not only leads vocally, but also by consistently modeling a tireless work ethic and respect for those around her. She is going to be a massive boon to our roster and our team culture — both on, and off of the court.”

2020 will be Clarendon’s 8th season in the WNBA.

Her signing comes just weeks after Clarendon, as WNPBA vice president, steered the union and the league toward what she called a “queer-inclusive” collective bargaining agreement.

Clarendon, 28, plans to start a family, she told the Washington Post last month. Stipulations in the collective bargaining agreement include a $5,000 child-care credit, plus a guarantee for two-bedroom housing. And as a gender non-conforming player, LGBTQ issues were a priority, she said.

“From the beginning I was like, we better be queer-inclusive on this,” said Clarendon, who married Jessica Dolan in November 2017. “Does it cover this type of mom or does it cover only the person who carried the child, not if the person wasn’t going to carry? All those things from the very beginning, I’m trying to really make sure we’re making it as inclusive as possible for all types of working moms in this league.”

On the court, Clarendon started her week with the 2020 USA Basketball Women’s National Team as they scored a 76-71 victory over Nigeria in the final game at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Feb. 9 in Belgrade, Serbia. As WNBA.com reported, the 12-team field for the 2020 Olympic women’s basketball tournament is now known. In addition to Japan, the USA Canada, China, France and Nigeria, six teams punched their ticket on Feb. 9: Australia, Belgium, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Korea and Spain. The draw to determine the 2020 Olympic preliminary round groups is scheduled for March 21.

The New York Times is reporting Clarendon is one of the WNBA players that may be announced Monday as taking part in the new 3X3 basketball event in Tokyo. Because of scheduling, the men’s team will most likely include no NBA players; The Times suggested the men’s candidates include an investment banker, a social worker and a podcaster.

The week ended in Chicago, where Clarendon took part in the USA Women’s National Team three-day minicamp, including an open practice, scrimmage, watching the NBA All-Star Teams’ practices at Wintrust Arena, interactions with fans, and attending the All-Star festivities over the weekend.

The Liberty will tip-off the 2020 regular season facing Clarendon’s old team, the Connecticut Sun, on Saturday, May 16 at 7 p.m. New York’s inaugural home opener at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday, May 17 at 6 p.m.


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