July 7, 2020
WNBA disavows Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler over opposition to Black Lives Matter movement
WNBPA calls for Loeffler's ouster after she wrote a letter to Cathy Engelbert urging her to scrap the league's plans to support the Black Lives Matter movement
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Atlanta Dream minority owner and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) opposes the WNBA’s plans to further the Black Lives Matter movement this season, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday. Loeffler said that she wrote a letter to Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, urging her to forgo the planned social justice initiatives and instead put the American flag on all league uniforms and apparel.
On Monday, the league announced that it would dedicate the 2020 season to social justice and honor the Black Lives Matter movement by allowing players to wear special warm-up shirts and jerseys with the names of Black women that have died in acts of racial violence. Courts at IMG Academy in Florida, where the 2020 season is set to be played, will also have the words, “Black Lives Matter.” The players’ union and the league also announced the creation of a new platform, The Justice Movement, and of a Social Justice Council.
Loeffler objected to the WNBA’s plans and said that subscribing to a “particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.” Loeffler has been a minority owner of the Atlanta Dream since 2011, and succeeded incumbent Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) in the United States Congress in January. Since her increased involvement in politics, Loeffler has promoted her Republican ideals, specifically labeling herself as pro-2nd Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall, pro-Trump, and “strongly pro-life.”
In response, the league put out a statement from Engelbert which said: “The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.”
Despite no longer being involved in the daily decision making and operations of the Dream, Loeffler still retains her ownership stake in the team.
Following news of Loeffler’s objections, the league’s players’ association called for the Senator to be removed from the league. WNBPA vice president Layshia Clarendon, who played for the Dream from 2016 to 2018, also tweeted her disappointment with Loeffler’s recent actions. Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve wrote on Twitter, praising the Black Lives Matter movement and saying that “none of us in the [WNBA] see systemic racism as a political issue.”
Prior to Loeffler’s latest comments, several WNBA players had taken to social media to call for her ouster after she criticized the protests in Atlanta and praised the police on national television.
Two weeks ago, Loeffler appeared on Fox News to talk about the protests in Atlanta surrounding Rayshard Brooks’ death. Brooks, a 27-year-old father of three, was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer in a Wendy’s parking lot on June 12. Following his murder, armed protesters appeared at a peaceful vigil outside the fast food restaurant in an attempt to create an “autonomous zone” similar to the one that emerged in Seattle. On Fox News, Loeffler referred to the group of armed protesters as an example of “mob rule,” and said that she has proposed legislation that would penalize local governments that move to defund the police without “a budgetary reason.”
“We cannot allow mob rule,” Loeffler told the Fox News host. “We are a nation of the rule of law and this is exactly what will happen if we defund the police. And that’s exactly what the Democrats want to do.
Back in March, Loeffler was in the headlines after it was reported that she dumped around $3 million in stocks after attending a briefing about the coronavirus and its potential negative impact on the economy and stock market. Meanwhile, the Senator was also downplaying the coronavirus to the public.
Following Loeffler’s comments on Fox News, current and former WNBA players voiced concerns about Loeffler’s ownership of a team in a league that is working to become more progressive thanks to the work of its outspoken Black female athlete majority.
Seattle Storm guard Alysha Clark tweeted an article from Yahoo Sports, titled “Why is Kelly Loeffler still a WNBA co-owner despite ‘Donald Sterling vibes’?” which Skylar Diggins-Smith retweeted saying, “Kelly Loeffler’s gotta GO!” Sue Bird agreed, Sydney Colson brought up the allegations against Loeffler and former players Swin Cash, Sheryl Swoopes weighed in as well.
Prior to Loeffler’s comments, Dream guard Renee Montgomery announced that she would opt out of the 2020 season to focus on social justice reform.
“There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community,” Montgomery wrote on Twitter. “Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight, but I do feel that now is the time.”
Loeffler criticized the Black armed protesters in Atlanta, but she also publicly champions the second amendment, which gives U.S. citizens the right to bear arms and to form well-regulated militias. On her website, she even highlights three congressional bills that she has co-sponsored, all of which make it easier to own and carry a gun in the U.S.
In an interview with The Ringer last week, Montgomery did not comment on Loeffler’s statements, but she later tweeted, “The second amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights. The problem some may be having is who is bearing the arms.”
Despite her reduced involvement in the Dream’s day-to-day operations, Loeffler is facing increased calls to sell her minority stake in the team as she runs to keep her seat in Georgia’s special election Senate race.