Kelly Loeffler’s public letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert condemning the league’s support for Black Lives Matter has only escalated calls from some of the league’s top players for the junior Republican senator from Georgia to be ousted as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream.
The fervor started last week, when Loeffler, who joined the Dream’s ownership in 2011, said in an interview with Fox News that 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.
Loeffler’s remarks against the protesters, which contradict her stated unfettered support of the Second Amendment, drew the ire of several stars — including Sue Bird and Natasha Cloud. Cloud, one of the most outspoken athletes in sports, simply told Loeffler to “get her weak ass out of the league.”
On Tuesday, Loeffler chastised the WNBA for its plans to paint “Black Lives Matter” prominently on courts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where the league will play its abbreviated season.
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country,” she wrote, via ESPN. “I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
In a statement provided to Outsports, the Dream said they are “not a political entity” and “focused on building a successful team on the court, winning games and creating a second-to-none fan experience.”
The WNBA also released a statement, saying Loeffler isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the Dream.
Still, several players continued to call for Loeffler’s ouster, including Layshia Clarendon, the gender nonconforming All-Star who, like many of her peers, is heavily involved in racial and social activism. “I can’t believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly’s house and shared a meal with her,” Clarendon wrote on Twitter. “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.”
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. 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 https://t.co/97jTbmuHda— Layshia Clarendon (@Layshiac) July 7, 2020
Dream point guard Renee Montgomery, who announced last month she wouldn’t be participating in the season due to the coronavirus, also criticized Loeffler. To state the obvious, it is rare for players to publicly criticize their team’s ownership in such blunt terms.
“I’m pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement & all that it stands for,” she tweeted. “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?”
It already was a tumultuous offseason for Loeffler, given the accusations of insider trading she faced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Her letter to Engelbert may be used as a campaign prop as she runs for reelection in a competitive Republican primary, but in terms of her status with the WNBA, it only made matters worse.
Loeffler may have to choose between her right-wing political career and involvement with the most progressive sports league in the country.