UPDATE 5:30 P.M. EDT JULY 7: The Atlanta Dream issued a statement to Outsports.
“The Atlanta Dream is not a political entity — we are in the business of sports and entertainment. The Dream players and staff are focused on building a successful team on the court, winning games and creating a second-to-none fan experience.”
After that, a team spokesperson responded to our question regarding Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s status, stating: “Yes, she is a part-owner of the organization.”
But as the Dream spokesperson has made clear, Loeffler retains her stake as a part-owner. Earlier Tuesday, Loeffler addressed a letter to the WNBA critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the league’s decision to feature the organization prominently on courts when the season restarts.
This story is developing, and we’ll provide updates as we get them.
ORIGINAL REPORT: WNBA stars are joining calls to oust Kelly Loeffler as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream. The junior Republican senator from Georgia has long stood against the league’s values of inclusion, given her stated opposition to the so-called “politicization of sports.” But recent comments she made deriding protesters in Atlanta are causing the calls of action to spread across (virtual) locker rooms.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Loeffler, who joined the Dream’s ownership in 2011, said armed Black protesters in Atlanta were practicing “mob rule.” She said protesters carrying firearms in public are an example of what will happen if we defund the police.
The armed protesters gathered a couple of weeks ago around the Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed Black man, was killed by police after falling asleep in a drive-through.
“We cannot allow mob rule,” she said. “We are a nation of the rule of law and this is exactly what will happen if we defund the police. And that’s exactly what the Democrats want to do.”
We must not allow mob rule.— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) June 26, 2020
We must not defund the police.
And we must protect the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. I’m continuing to take action on these issues. #gapol #gasen pic.twitter.com/nrJueL82PJ
Loeffler’s website boasts she’s a proud supporter of the Second Amendment, and thus one would assume, Georgia’s open carry law. “As a lifelong conservative, I know that the U.S. Constitution is not optional, and our Second Amendment rights are not up for debate,” she writes on her site. “That’s why I signed on to three common-sense bills that protect and expand the freedoms of gun-owners across America.”
Apparently, Loeffler is all for expanding the freedoms of gun-owners, unless they’re Black people protesting against the police and systemic racism. Interestingly enough, Loeffler did not decry white armed protesters in Michigan who stormed the state house demanding the state lift coronavirus restrictions.
It’s been a tumultuous several months for Loeffer, who was investigated for insider trading following questionable stock transactions before the coronavirus pandemic. The Dream co-owner, who’s running for reelection this year, also recently expressed support for the anti-LGBTQ Family Policy Alliance.
Last week, Yahoo! Sports columnist Shalise Manza-Young called for the WNBA to remove Loeffler from the Dream’s ownership group, saying she gives off “Donald Sterling vibes,” a reference to the disgraced ex-owner of the Clippers, who was forced to sell the team after racist tapes were leaked. Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark shared the piece, prompting several stars to comment, including Bird.
The Dream did not immediately return a request for comment. Previously, the organization has distanced itself from Loeffler’s political views and career. “The Atlanta Dream is not a political entity, and we are in the business of sports and entertainment,” the organization told Outsports in an email in May. “We are focused on building a successful team on the court and creating a top fan experience.”
In response to Clark’s tweet, Bird said she was “asking herself the same question” about Loeffler’s continued involvement with the league. Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud shared the same sentiment, albeit in non-PG fashion.
“Get her weak ass out of the league,” Cloud tweeted.
The WNBA is slated to tip-off its season later this month at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., mirroring the NBA’s bubble plan at The Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla. The issue of racial justice promises to loom over the proceedings, meaning Loeffler will probably continue to face criticism about her social views. The league is reportedly discussing painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court when the abbreviated season begins.