WNBA Players Want Atlanta Co-Owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler Out After She Opposed Black Lives Matter
"How is she still a owner? Bye Kelly," Breanna Stewart, the league's 2018 MVP, tweeted in response to Sen. Loeffler's comments about Black Lives Matter
WNBA players have called for the basketball league to remove Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler from her role as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream following the lawmaker's comments criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement this week.
Loeffler sent a letter to league commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Tuesday, one day after the league announced plans to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement by allowing players to wear warm-up uniforms with the movement's name and slogans — like "Say Her Name" — on the back.
The Republican senator from Georgia said in her letter to the league that she opposes the league's embracing of the movement and wrote that subscribing "to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion."
“The truth is, we need less — not more — politics in sports," Loeffler, 49, wrote.
In response, the league distanced itself from Loeffler by pointing out the senator "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.”
"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 WNBA said in a statement Tuesday.
Players took the league's response a step further, calling for Loeffler's removal from the WNBA as an owner.
"How is she still a owner? Bye Kelly. Keep that negative energy out of our league," tweeted Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, the league's MVP in 2018.
"There is no place in this league [for Loeffler]," Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker told TNT. "I think we’ve had a number of people that have stepped forward and listened, and have taken initiative and taken action, and we’ve had those that haven’t and continue to make comments and show why we’re still in this situation."
Loeffler is a fierce supporter of President Donald Trump and is up for re-election in November. She's currently facing a tough primary battle with Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow GOP lawmaker.
The junior senator doubled down on her opinion Wednesday that sports and politics should remain separate, despite the players' backlash.
"Trying to add more politics to sports creates more division," Loeffler tweeted.
A spokesperson for Loeffler—who was investigated by the Justice Department earlier this year for her decision to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks after attending a senators-only COVID-19 briefing in January—did not respond to a request for comment about several players calling for the senator's removal.
The Journal-Constitution reported that multiple high-profile WNBA players — such as Sue Bird, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Natasha Cloud — recently reached out to Engelbert, the league's commissioner, about disciplining Loeffler for separate comments she made last month criticizing protesters near the site of Rayshard Brooks killing in Atlanta.
Loeffler criticized protesters at the site as "mob rule," echoing a common Trump-administration criticism of recent protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
"Why is Kelly Loeffler still a WNBA co-owner despite 'Donald Sterling vibes'?" tweeted Seattle Storm player Alysha Clark, referring to Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clippers owner who was ousted for racist comments in 2014.
"Asking myself the same question," Bird, an 11-time All Star, responded.
Layshia Clarendon, who plays for the New York Liberty but spent two years with the Atlanta Dream, voiced her shock and opposition to Loeffler's statements.
"I can't believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly's house and shared a meal with her. It's actually really hurtful to see her true colors," Clarendon, 29, tweeted. "I had no idea while I played for [Atlanta] she felt this way. Happy to own us as long as we stay quiet and perform."
The league also announced that “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on its courts during games this season, while leaving the question open about social justice efforts expanding past 2020.
“Working together with the WNBPA [players' association] and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond," Engelbert said in the league's statement. "Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”