The WNBA started its year trying to declare itself one of the most progressive professional sports leagues in the world. Yet, one day after the league announced its plans to wear special jerseys to seek justice for the Black women and girls who have died due to police brutality and racial violence, not everyone was in favor of the move.
Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler wrote to league commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Tuesday to express her dissatisfaction with the latest initiative.
"I appreciate your hard work as the WNBA Commissioner, especially during these challenging moments, but I was incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league," Loeffler, a Georgia Republican senator who's running for re-election in November, wrote of the new measure in a letter obtained by Atlanta News Now.
On Monday, the league announced plans for players to wear special warm-up jerseys that will say "Black Lives Matter" on the front and "Say Her Name" on the back. "Black Lives Matter" will also be displayed on the courts during games.
The plan was widely supported by players and team staff around the league and is just one of the ways the league plans to raise awareness about the social injustice that cripples the country.
"Players, coaches, and yes — team owners — share differing opinions on many issues," Loeffler's wrote. "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.
"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. And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports."
Loeffler has been an outspoken critic of the Black Lives Matter protests. Just three days ago she appeared on Fox News describing the Black Atlanta protesters legally carrying guns after the police killing of Rayshard Brooks as "mob rule" and "unacceptable." She reiterated that point in her letter to Engelbert.
"The lives of each and every African American matter, and there's no debating the fact that there is no place for racism in our country," Loeffler wrote. "However, I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement.
"I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion."
The WNBAPA, which has vehemently called for Loeffler's ouster as a co-owner of the Atlanta team, responded to news of the letter on Twitter by saying, "E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!"
Ex-Dream turned Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon unloaded on Loeffler.
"I can't believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly's house and shared a meal with her," Clarendon tweeted. "It's actually really hurtful to see her true colors. I had no idea while I played for ATL she felt this way. Happy to own us as long as we stay quiet and perform."
Seattle Storm leader Sue Bird also chimed in.
"Kelly, No. Black lives matter. Period. Byeeeee," Bird tweeted.
Loeffler has held a significant stake in the team for about a decade. Engelbert, who was appointed to her role as commissioner in 2019, released a statement on Tuesday that simply said that Loeffler "is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team" and reiterated what the league does stand for.
"The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people," Engelbert wrote, "and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice."
Loeffler has suggested the league change its plans for the uniform to have American flags on them.
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