And that is what makes Loeffler’s heel turn so odious.
She betrayed the WNBA, using its support of Black Lives Matter to manufacture a straw man for her political pandering. In a contemptible display of selfishness and desperation, she just wants a fight. She wants to make herself relevant. She hopes to accomplish two things with her egregious misrepresentation of the players’ intentions: play to the bigots in President Trump’s base and rile up a league that she knows is full of women who do not back down.
If Loeffler finds a way to quiet them, she soothes the white fragility of the Trump base in Georgia. Or, more likely, if she falls to the passion, collective power and persistence of the players, she can pretend to be a martyr and decry cancel culture. Either way, she stays top of mind in a tight race to retain her Senate seat. You might consider the game she is playing shrewd if it weren’t so traitorous.
Earlier in the week, the WNBA and its players association announced the Justice Movement, a new platform that detailed its social justice initiatives for the upcoming season. It included wearing apparel with “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” written on it to make reference to women who were victims of police lethality or suspected racist violence. The league also agreed to wear jerseys honoring Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American emergency room technician who was shot eight times in her apartment in Louisville after police used a battering ram to enter in the middle of the night. She died March 13, and nearly four months later, the officers who killed her haven’t been arrested.
In wearing her name on their uniforms, the players are making a plea for justice to a country whose leaders refuse to listen. Their declaration that black lives matter is a literal one, not necessarily tied to every aspect of the Black Lives Matter organization.
In a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Loeffler expressed her displeasure and made sure to sensationalize the players’ objectives.
“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,” she said in the letter, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported. “However, 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. I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
Translation: Black lives mattering freaks me out.
Naturally, players throughout the league are calling for Engelbert to oust a co-owner who thinks so little of them.
I call what Loeffler tried to do the D.O.G. method. When you feel threatened by a group of people you don’t understand — or don’t want to understand — you dehumanize, otherize and generalize.
Black Lives Matter is not a political movement. It is a human rights movement, one that cannot be met with a “Yeah, but …” reaction, especially when the garbage after “but” is a bunch of fearmongering drivel. Yes, police reform is an adjacent issue. No, people are not coming after Jesus as if he were a Confederate statue. No, they do not seek to tear apart families. No, the ignorant and shameful anti-Semitic rhetoric of DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson do not represent a consensus view.
Again, the players want to take the concept of black lives matter to its most literal and human form. They want you never to forget a few of the black women who have died because either police failed to serve and protect or vigilantes went on a hate spree.
If you consider that controversial or enraging, you might want to make sure a white hood isn’t stashed away in your closet.
In doubling down during a Fox News interview with Laura “Shut Up And Dribble” Ingraham, Loeffler referred to Black Lives Matter as “a very divisive organization based on Marxist principles.”
She added: “This is an organization that seeks to destroy the American principles, and I had to draw the line.”
If the pursuit of equality can destroy American principles, what does that say about inequality? Is the status quo — inequality — the great protector of these principles? Or is Loeffler just trying to scare people silent?
Inequality: It sure beats trying harder.
Put that on a bumper sticker.
Over the past 23 years, the WNBA has grown to be a beacon of inclusion. It celebrates all of itself, from rosters that are 80 percent black to pride in its high number of LGBTQ players. It is a diverse, global and fearless league. The lessons you learn from being around the players, from listening to the way they think and observing the mental clarity they have about what’s really important, is amazing.
In a passionate essay in ESPN’s the Undefeated, New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon began: “The WNBA is the movement. We are the women who have been doing the work long before it was socially acceptable or cool. We are the trans, the non-binary, the gender nonconforming, the cis women, the gay women, all across the spectrum of what women can be — in a predominantly black league.”
It’s unfathomable that Loeffler has spent a decade in this environment and managed to come away with a shrinking perspective. Since December, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) selected her to succeed Johnny Isakson, the conflict between her conservative political leanings and the league’s progressive stances has been a bubbling issue. But the situation was manageable until Loeffler chose political aspiration over her investment in the Dream.
Three months ago, when Loeffler was accused of insider trading and pandemic profiteering, former Dream star Angel McCoughtry defended her on Twitter. She talked about the person she knew, not the alleged dirty politician.
“I love Kelly Loeffler,” McCoughtry said then. “She has done nothing but give give give!! … Kelly has always had my back when I needed her. And she would have yours too.”
It’s July now, and Loeffler avoided trouble, and McCoughtry moved on to the Las Vegas Aces. Interestingly, McCoughtry was an influential voice as the WNBA developed this Justice Movement.
So in going after the entire league to try to win an election, Loeffler also spat in the face of McCoughtry, a player she knows well, a player who had supported her unconditionally.
“I’m actually shocked by her actions,” McCoughtry told the Journal-Constitution. “Sometimes you got to play the political game, and I get it. But don’t mess with us in this political game.”
Loyalty is always the target of betrayal.