July 10, 2020
Atlanta Dream players issue a strong statement in response to owner Kelly Loeffler’s letter
Loeffler, a Republican senator, wrote a letter denouncing the league's social justice plans on Tuesday
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
On Tuesday, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) sent a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert that called for the WNBA to do away with its plans to allow players to wear messages related to social justice — like Say Her Name or Black Lives Matter — on their jerseys and instead put an American flag on each jersey.
“The truth is, we need less — not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote,” Loeffler, who co-owns the Atlanta Dream, wrote in the letter. “And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”
Friday evening, the Dream’s players responded with a statement of their own.
The letter makes the players’ feelings on the issue abundantly clear: Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. While only 12 signatures appear in the graphic, The Next has learned from a team source that all 14 Dream players signed the letter. The players all shared the statement at 6:05 p.m. in recognition of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home by Louisville police in March and was born on June 5.
Loeffler’s letter was met with sharp criticism from players around the league as well as the WNBPA itself. It was not the first time in recent weeks that Loeffler’s comments have angered those in the WNBA — barely more than two weeks ago, she referred to Black protesters carrying guns as “mob rule”.
In the wake of the letter on Tuesday, the WNBA released a statement that said Loeffler has not been acting as the team’s governor since October 2019, though she remains an owner of the team despite not being involved in day-to-day operations.
Loeffler is currently running in Georgia’s special election Senate race, which will be decided in November. She became a senator in January 2020 after her predecessor, Johnny Isakson, resigned due to health issues, and Georgia governor Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler in his place.
When Dream players shared their statement on social media, nearly all of them attached the same message.
“We’ve read the letter. We reject the letter. Black lives matter. Vote in November.”
Their position on their owner’s views is clear.