WNBA Commissioner and players respond to Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler’s opposition to league’s social justice efforts
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement today in response to Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler’s opposition to the social justice efforts of the league and players.
Engelbert: “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.”
Loeffler is a U.S. Senator (R-GA) who was appointed last December to fill an open seat. She faces an election for the seat in November. Earlier in the day, she wrote a letter that criticized players’ support of Black Lives Matter efforts: to “subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to report Loeffler’s response, printing her letter online.
Since her appointment to the Senate in December 2019, Loeffler has been a vocal supporter of politicians and groups that promote racist, homophobic, transphobic, and anti-abortion agendas. Until today, the league has declined to comment on her activity. Engelbert said in mid-April: “We’re not going to comment on that side of her world, which is the political side of her world. So no comment from me on Senator Loeffler.”
The Atlanta Dream has had a similar stance this year: “The Atlanta Dream is not a political entity, and we are in the business of sports and entertainment. We are focused on building a successful team on the court and creating a top fan experience.”
Yesterday the league announced a slate of social justice projects that will take place during the season. Players will wear warm-up shirts that display the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” will on the back “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games. In addition, players plan to participate in podcasts and virtual roundtables.
Players began speaking up about Loeffler’s views last month, culminating in a storm of social media posts today condemning her views. At the moment, most teams are at the league’s temporary summer home in Florida in an isolated environment due to the coronavirus pandemic. They will play a t22-game season that begins in late July on a yet to be announced date.
Dear @SenatorLoeffler ….
I’m pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement & all that it stands for. I was already sitting out this season & this is an example of why. I would love to have a conversation with you about the matter if you’re down?
— Renee Montgomery (@ReneeMontgomery) July 7, 2020
Let me be clear: we don’t give a damn what you think @KLoeffler. Cut all ties with the league, stop giving your bigoted opinions about black affairs, & tend to ur insider trading sweetheart ?? https://t.co/KYZHUlrvXU
— Sydney Colson (@SydJColson) July 7, 2020
— Kristi Toliver (@KristiToliver) July 7, 2020
second, THIS IS A *WOMENS* LEAGUE THAT HAS 80% *BLACK* PLAYERS.
— Natalie Achonwa (@NatAchon) July 7, 2020
Kelly, No. Black lives matter. Period.
— Sue Bird (@S10Bird) July 7, 2020
1st, the Commissioner of the @wnba is addressing this problem.
2nd, I’d respond to @KLoeffler with none of us in the W see systemic racism as a political issue. #BLM shines a bright light on the issues facing black people and that equality isn’t for all and that MUST CHANGE. https://t.co/AdBat2aAoL
— Cheryl Reeve (@LynxCoachReeve) July 7, 2020
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 8, 2020
It’s 2020 and a major sports team co-owner has objected to its leagues intention to honor equality, #BlackLivesMatter & #SayHerName movements citing this “particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion”…
— Brianna Turner (@_Breezy_Briii) July 8, 2020