Betnijah Laney-Hamilton
April 13, 2024: Betnijah Laney-Hamilton assists at the Fulton Houses in New York, NY. Image via Brandon Todd/NY Liberty

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton Talks Advocacy, Community and More

The New York Liberty have made community a key part of their mission. Whether it is in the five boroughs or across the world, the team has sought to build bridges and create welcoming environments. That community was on display on April 13 when the team partnered with Wellfare and the Hospital for Special Surgery to hand out food to residents of the Fulton Houses in Manhattan. It was a rainy day, but that did not stop the team as thousands of dollars worth of food was handed out.

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Joining the cause was Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, who distributed food to residents and provided an overall sense of joy and positivity throughout her time with them that day. Laney-Hamilton took a break from her work to chat with The Local W. Here is our conversation.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton
Apil 13, 2024: Betnijah Laney-Hamilton at the Fulton Houses in New York, NY. Image via Brandon Todd/NY Liberty

The Local W: It’s been a little bit wet, but a great turnout today. How’s the experience been for you?

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton: “It’s been really great! Ever since I was little, community was something that my mother instilled in me. So to be able to be here today, giving out boxes and not just boxes with anything in them, you know? Healthy alternatives to a lot of the snacks that I grew up eating or that are more accessible, it’s really important. It’s really important and I’m just thankful that I was chosen to be here. I’m thankful that we have people who have donated these different things to make a great impact in the community.

TLW: With athletics, a lot goes into proper dieting, making sure that fitness is there. How do you think healthy food and athletics go hand-in-hand?

BLH: “Yeah they definitely go hand-in-hand. You need the right fuel to get you going so that you can perform at your best, and that’s something that I’ve learned over the years. Growing up, I was like ‘Ok, McDonald’s, Arizona iced tea, honey buns, Oreos!’ All those different kinds of things were my diet until I realized that didn’t help me be able to go out and perform to the best of my ability. Sitting down with nutritionists, I understood that nutrition was very valuable in the way that you’re able to go out and perform.

It’s not just the practice that you put in and the work that you do on the court, but just also the work that you do off the floor as well. So I know how important diet and everything is now. So it’s great to be able to extend this knowledge, extend these products and resources to the community.”

TLW: In New York, there’s been so much food insecurity. Access to food is difficult to get, and in the stores, there are few healthy items. How do you think Wellfare helps curb that gap in a sense?

BLH: “They provide the resources. It’s not always easily accessible, and that’s something that I’ve understood, especially from the areas that I’ve grown up in. It’s part of the reason why I want to do what I want to do after basketball. And so seeing this, this is great and understanding that there are partners, are people out there that are willing to help to make a difference in the community. It goes a long way.”

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton
April 13, 2024: Betnijah Laney-Hamilton at the Fulton Houses in New York, NY. Image via Brandon Todd/NY Liberty

TLW: A couple of days ago, I saw you and the WNBA did a partnership with Opill. How did that collaboration come about?

BLH: They reached out to me, knowing how big community is [and] being a voice for women who don’t always have a voice and who don’t always have the resources It just felt like a great fit, being able to help somebody obtain something that is not easily accessible.

That’s something that is important [is the ability] to be able to speak up. I have this platform to where I can use my voice and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. And seeing that they’re interested in being partnered with us and behind us, I thought it would be great to advocate for women to be able to have those resources.

TLW: Reproductive rights have been under attack, and now with Opill, how do you think that can make a positive push in the other direction?

BLH: “I think that’s the thing with anything that you’re doing when you’re trying to make progress, is just kind of taking it one step at a time. And this is that one step at a time. It might not fix everything, but it’s definitely part of the solution and not part of the problem. So it’s helping the problem even though it might not fix everything. This is the first step to something big, to where women don’t have those same rights everywhere, but they have something that can help with that.”

TLW: And back on the team front, you guys worked with Callen Lorde last year to promote more healthcare and make healthcare more accessible. What does that do for you knowing that you can help people make them feel good on the court and give back to them and make them feel good off the court in the community?

BLH: “In life, no matter who you are, what you are, what you do or anything like that, I think that everybody should have the right to basic needs and healthcare is a basic need. And so, the fact that the league and teams are partnering with different people who understand that and want to bring those resources to communities [and] especially underserved communities, it really goes a long way. And again, it might not fix everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton
April 13, 2024: Betnijah Laney-Hamilton of the New York Liberty at Fulton Houses. Image via Brandon Todd/NY Liberty

TLW: And to transition a little bit, you guys are back to work in a couple of weeks. Are you excited?

BLH: “I’m very excited! I’m back in New York and came back early. I’m excited. Can’t wait to have everybody back in market and build off the momentum that we had last year. I know things didn’t end in the way that we would have liked but all in all, I think if anything we can make progress from that, especially with it being our first year. I know expectations and everything were high, but look what we did in one year. [It was] something that it takes a lot of teams years to get to, so I think we definitely made a step in the right direction. It’s something that we can learn from and hopefully obtain the goal of winning the championship.

TLW: One thing I noticed is you guys got more comfortable as the season progressed. Now that [Jonquel Jones] is back, [Breanna Stewart] and everyone else, how do you think that early transition at the beginning of the year will sort of be a bit easier compared to last year?

BLH: “It takes time to learn people and we did all of that, made it to a Final series, and that wasn’t even a year. We weren’t all on the court as a core until the first game pretty much. So for us to do all of that within that short span and then know what we’re coming back into, and then knowing each other now better than we did before, I think that our potential, our ceiling is really high.”