NEW YORK — Credit the WNBA with a major assist in helping to oust Republican Kelly Loeffler from the U.S. Senate.
Rev. Raphael Warnock beat Loeffler in a run-off election in Georgia that was called early morning Wednesday for the democrat challenger. Warnock becomes the first Black senator in the state's history.
"Shout out to the local organizers in Georgia who made this happen," Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon — a member of the league's social justice council and executive committee and a former Atlanta Dream player — said early Wednesday morning on Twitter. "We know and love Stacey Abrams and she's the first to give credit to the other peeps who've also done the tireless work."
"Winning is cool, but have you ever flipped the senate," Storm star Breanna Stewart, also a member of the league's social justice council, wrote on Twitter. "@WNBA @TheWNBPA s/o to all the incredible women who represent the W!! Big time congrats @ReverendWarnock!! We are on the right side of history!!
Loeffler, currently still a co-owner of the Dream, drew the ire of her team and the league when she penned a letter to Commissioner Cathy Engelbert asking the W not to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which she said was "political" and "different from saying Black Lives matter." This was after the league announced its plans to wear "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" shirts and post similar signage on the courts.
"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 in June. "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."
Loeffler was first under fire earlier that month when she called Atlanta protesters carrying guns after the police killing of Rayshard Brooks "unacceptable" and "mob rule" during a live interview on Fox News.
In August, the players decided to start campaigning for Warnock, Loeffler's challenger. The reverend and civil rights activist who was the leader of the same church Martin Luther King Jr. preached at, was barely in the political spotlight before the Dream and players around the league starting wearing "Vote Warnock" shirts. The W merely helped shine a light on an election in Georgia that determined which party controlled the Senate (Wednesday evening, Democrat Jon Ossoff was the projected winner, CNN announced, over David Purdue, wrestling control away from the Republicans.).
Loeffler's response to the players' actions: "This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It's clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June."
The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of necessity because Black men, women and children were and still are tormented and killed by police and white supremacists with little to no justice yet coming to correct it.
Players had at first tried to force Loeffler out of her ownership stake in the Dream. Engelbert responded by telling players that although Loeffler is a co-owner, she has no role in daily operations and is no longer on the W's board of governors, and would not be forced to sell her shares.
It wasn't enough and the players had had enough.
The players decided they could help get rid of Loeffler where it would have the most impact: in the United States Senate. And the idea to start wearing the T-shirts, thought up by Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, came about.
For background, Loeffler — who aligned herself politically with Donald Trump — was never elected to her seat in Washington. She was appointed to it in January 2020 by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp after Johnny Isakson, the person who held the seat, decided to step down from the position for health reasons.
Abrams, whose SAGE Works firm in 2008 helped bring the Dream to Atlanta and who has worked tirelessly to help end voter suppression in Georgia, narrowly lost to Kemp in 2018. She then devoted herself to registering and advocating for Black voters around the state and country. In 2019, she was made part of the players' union's "Super Team," the WNBAPA Board of Advocates.
The league at large spent the rest of the year highlighting the importance of voting and showing support for the Biden-Harris ticket, as well as others on their local ballots. Players on the Dream spent the rest of the year focused more on the political fight in Georgia, turning whatever local and national spotlight they had on the races back home.
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