Point guard Jasmine Thomas of the Connecticut Sun leads WNBA partnership with Kay Yow Cancer Fund
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
PHILANTHROPY

Sun Star Jasmine Thomas is Leading the WNBA’s Fight Against Cancer

“I want the world to know that together, we all have the power to change this,” the Connecticut guard tells Boardroom.

The 25th season of the WNBA tipped off earlier this month absolutely bursting with hope and exuberance following a year of struggles, opt-outs, and the “Wubble.” And while there’s plenty to celebrate already, from the returns of Tina Charles and Elena Delle Donne to Sabrina Ionescu’s hot hand propelling the New York Liberty to a breakout start, one particular team-up aims to produce wins that resonate on a different kind of level.

The Women’s National Basketball Players Association and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund officially joined forces last week, thanks in seriously large part to the hard work of Connecticut Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas.

Named for the longtime North Carolina State Wolfpack coach and Hall of Famer who passed away in 2009 to breast cancer, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund supports fighting all forms of cancers that affect women while emphasizing core values of strength, courage, and hope. 

We reached out to Thomas, the Sun’s primary Player Representative at the WNBPA, to hear more about the origin of this relationship — and what Kay Yow means to her years after competing against the iconic coach as a member of the Duke Blue Devils.

The following is Boardroom’s conversation with Thomas, conducted via email and lightly edited for clarity.

SAM DUNN: What motivated you to seek out this partnership with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund?

JASMINE THOMAS: My mom, Sharon, is a breast cancer survivor, and we have a strong history of breast cancer in my family. Motivated by my personal connection, I started working with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in 2019. Right away, I received an exciting opportunity as a KYCF Ambassador to help secure a partnership with the players of the WNBA.

With a focus on serving underserved Black and Brown communities, the partnership aligns perfectly with two of our WNBPA pillars: social justice and public health and safety.

SD: You competed against Coach Yow’s NC State teams in college. What do you remember most about her squads?

JT: With NC State being just down the road, those games were a battle. NC State teams played with incredible passion, toughness and togetherness. They were a true representation of Coach Yow’s leadership and competitiveness.

She was a warrior. Since being involved with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, I’ve heard countless stories from former players and coaches about Coach Yow’s compassion, selflessness, and commitment to making those around her better people on and off the court. I really wish I had the chance to know her personally. 

SD: What are some of your other off-court goals for this year?

JT: My main off-court goal is to pursue and experience promising opportunities outside of playing basketball. My philanthropic endeavors are a huge part of that, but I’m also very excited to explore diverse corporate [and] career interests for whenever I decide to transition.

SD: What’s the single biggest message you want to get out to the world with this partnership?

I want this partnership to further amplify the intolerable health disparities and inequities in the Black community. We face the greatest challenges [regarding] prevention, detection, and treatment, and the rate Black women are diagnosed with and die from cancer compared to any racial or ethnic group is heartbreaking.

I want the world to know that together, we all have the power to change this. The #PowerOfOne represents our individual responsibility to humanity, and how much stronger our impact when unified — which is exactly what the women of the WNBA exemplify.