Heading into the silver anniversary of the league with a recently launched social justice campaign and new arena on the horizon is a prime time for a rebrand.
The reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm unveiled a new logo on Tuesday that modernizes the most recent iteration of the one its held since its founding 21 years ago. It showcases the fact the Storm are the state's one professional basketball team with an image of the iconic Space Needle inside a basketball. The peak of Mount Rainer overlooks it with a new "Bolt Green" lightning bolt in the center and the same color around.
The rebrand follows one in 2016 that eliminated the original red and bronze worn during the team's first two titles.
To celebrate, the logo is featured on a mural two blocks from Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle that incorporates the team's recent titles and its focus on social justice initiatives through its Force4Change arm launched last summer.
"As an organization we want to have our stance with how our organization is going to look for the future," Crystal Langhorne, Director of Community Engagement for the Force4Change initiative, told Yahoo Sports ahead of the announcement. "Our organization is huge on Black Lives Matter (and) amplifying Black voices and people of color. And that’s what we want to show for the future.
"We’re taking such a huge step to show just for history where we stand. This mural is going to show so much of who we are as an organization."
Storm center logo, social justice initiative
The mural, a partnership with art activation agency Muros, will feature players in their "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" T-shirts. Artists Mari Shibuya and Zahyr Lauren will incorporate the team's championship and new logo while paying homage to the women of Seattle and their fight for change.
The Storm have been out in front when it comes to social causes. They were the first professional sports team to partner with Planned Parenthood in 2017 and this past October took the rare step of publicly endorsing Joe Biden for president. The WNBA players are longtime activists and individual teams have their own campaigns, which the Storm launched in July 2020 as Force4Change. Langhorne, a two-time Storm champion, was named the inaugural director last month in a joint retirement announcement by the 13-year veteran.
"The Storm, we're not just talk," Langhorne said. "We’re really about creating change and showing people who we are as an organization. And I think we’re continuing to lead the way. Our ownership group has been continuously outspoken. They’re always telling us as players to use our voice and they’ll always have our back. I’m just proud to be a part of this organization and honored that I’m able to be in this role."
Shibuya and Lauren are both artists of color, an important aspect to the Storm as amplifying Black and brown voices is of the four key areas of focus for Force4Change. Shibuya, a Seattle native, creates works inspired by creating a more liberated, creative and connected world. Lauren creates artwork to share "light and love" in the community and finds a meditative reprieve in it that they hopes engulfs others.
Storm mural a bridge to continuing change
Langhorne didn't come into the project until recently. She was busy with social justice work as a player until the new job officially kicks in this month. The Storm held game-specific events to boost their causes and highlighted "community champions" supporting Black and underserved communities during the pandemic.
They collaborated on custom shoes for a "Kicks for Equality" game and auctioned them off to raise money for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. And every week last season, WNBA players spoke with the family of a Black woman impacted by police violence. Though it may seem small, the impact can be mighty.
"Those little things really can make a difference," Langhorne said. "I think we’re seeing that as a league and other people are seeing it as we’re doing things like that. You might think things don’t matter, but they really do."
The mural will provide a powerful bridge from the 2020 season to the 25th anniversary season tentatively set to tip off on schedule in May. The arena blocks away from it is expected to open by fall 2021, making it possible the Storm play there this season. But even if it doesn't happen, the mural will speak to where the Storm have been and plan to go both in terms of championships and change.
"People need to know that as a league we recognize what’s going on," Langhorne said, "and we care about what’s happening to people. Especially Black women because our league is full of Black women. And we get it."
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