Reigning WNBA MVP Elena Della Donne has never been shy about expressing her opinion, particularly when it comes to perhaps the one issue closest to her heart.
So when a comedian recently included in his Showtime special a bit about his “retarded” cousin, Delle Donne took to Twitter along with others to call him out.
— Elena Delle Donne (@De11eDonne) June 2, 2016
On Tuesday, the comedian, Gary Owen, decided to remove the offensive segment.
“I’m thrilled the Special Olympics was able to reach him and make it clear how powerful and hurtful words can be,” Delle Donne said Wednesday. “I hope this will change his perspective and resonate with him in the future.”
Delle Donne, who will be making her Olympic debut this summer in Rio, is also devoted to the Special Olympic movement as a proponent of Unified Sports and a spokeswoman for those with intellectual disabilities.
“I will say something every time,” the Chicago Sky star said of speaking out when she hears someone use the R-word, as those involved in Special Olympics call it, or anything she finds offensive. “My sister doesn’t have a voice to defend herself, so I take lot of pride in doing that. … Whenever that happens, I speak out and say it was wrong and unfair.”
Delle Donne has spoken and written often of her older sister Lizzie, who was born deaf and blind, with cerebral palsy and autism, and though Lizzie is unable to participate in Special Olympics activities, Elena has consistently worked with the organization throughout her career.
Delle Donne’s devotion has extended to making sure all of her basketball clinics are unified — involving those with intellectual disabilities along with non-disabled teammates — and including unified games at the NBA and WNBA All-Star weekends.
“The Special Olympics athletes are really incredible,” Delle Donne said. “It’s really good basketball and really fun.”
On Wednesday, Special Olympics announced that it has surpassed its goal of registering one million Unified Sports participants by reaching 1.2 million, a significant jump from 500,000 two years ago. In addition, Unified Sports are now in 4,300 schools in the U.S.
“The greatest thing about it is that it’s breaking down barriers for people who are nervous to approach those with intellectual disabilities because they don’t know what to say or they’re afraid they’ll break,” Delle Donne said. “When you build relationships, you eliminate that.”