WNBA players are again calling for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) to be removed as co-owner of the league’s Atlanta Dream franchise after she objected to the WNBA’s mission to support Black Lives Matter this season.
Loeffler, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, wrote to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Tuesday requesting that American flags be placed on warmup jerseys instead of the originally intended “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name,” a reference to Breonna Taylor and other Black women killed by police.
Loeffler said she was “incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter movement,” Loeffler wrote, conflating its goals to end systemic racism and remove Confederate monuments with the general destruction of property and violence. “All of us have a constitutional right to hold and to express our views. But to subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
Loeffler met swift backlash from players, many of whom had already called for her ouster last month after she said on Fox News that Black protesters carrying guns in Atlanta were practicing “mob rule,” though the senator is a loud advocate for gun rights herself. In response to those comments, Loeffler was likened to Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after making racist comments caught on tape.
Since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler to an open Senate seat in December, she’s faced mounting pressure to sell her stake in the Atlanta Dream, which she’s held since 2011. Earlier this year, the senator faced fierce scrutiny after she and her husband sold millions of dollars in stocks after she attended private congressional briefings about the looming coronavirus pandemic. As The Guardian reports, that controversy and Loeffler’s political views are at odds with almost everything the progressive women’s league stands for.
Dream guard Renee Montgomery, who opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to focus on social justice reform initiatives, said Tuesday it was “pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement & all that it stands for.”
The Women’s National Basketball Players Association called for Loeffler to be removed.
Sheryl Swoopes, a legendary former WNBA player, voiced her agreement:
And Chicago Sky player Sydney Colson requested that Loeffler “cut all ties with the league” and keep her “bigoted opinions” to herself.
The WNBA distanced itself from Loeffler in a statement.
“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,” the statement said, noting that Loeffler is “no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.”
Loeffler’s comments come a day after the WNBA announced that its new season beginning in late July would be centered around advancing social justice issues, including Black Lives Matter, voting rights, LGBTQ advocacy and gun control.
At the season’s opening weekend of competition, players will wear uniforms emblazoned with the names of women who have been victims of police brutality and racial violence, including Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and Sandra Bland.