The WNBA’s pushback against Kelly Loeffler is continuing inside of the league’s bubble. Players are wearing shirts this week to support the Democratic challenger to Loeffler’s senate seat, following a series of derogative comments from the Atlanta Dream co-owner about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Players across the league are sporting shirts that say, “Vote Warnock,” in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock. Dream forward Elizabeth Williams told ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne the league’s executive committee explored the idea after Loeffler’s remarks. Williams says Sue Bird originally came up with the protest, and Layshia Clarendon was a driving force behind the movement as well.
“I think when all this stuff started happening with her, we didn’t want to feel like we were pawns,” Williams told Shelbourne. “We can only control so much about what the league does, and so for us, we wanted it to be bigger than that.”
Despite calls from WNBA stars for Loeffler to be ousted from the league, commissioner Cathy Englebert said last month she won’t force the junior senator to sell her stake in the franchise.
Loeffler condemned the WNBA’s embrace of Black Lives Matter in a public letter to Englebert, claiming the league’s social activism would drive fans away. “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.
Earlier this summer, Loeffler said in a Fox News interview that armed Black protesters in Atlanta were practicing “mob rule.”
In a remarkable rebuke, the Dream defied Loeffler with a statement supporting Black Lives Matter, which was published on Twitter.
Bird has spoken out against Loeffler, with the 11-time All-Star and three-time champion asking why she’s still part of the league if its activism is so antithetical to her political views. Clarendon, the gender nonconforming guard for the New York Liberty, tweeted she “can’t believe” she’s stepped foot in Loeffler’s house.
In a detestable display of political gamesmanship, it is apparent Loeffler is using the WNBA’s own players as pawns to generate enthusiasm around her senate campaign. By wearing shirts supporting Loeffler’s Democratic opponent, the players are simply returning the favor.