Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat and faces a special election in November, alienated players last month when she objected to the league’s Black Lives Matter message on uniforms and on the court at IMG Academy in Florida, where the abbreviated season is being played under coronavirus-related restrictions. In a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Loeffler suggested players wear an American flag on their jerseys and keep fans’ focus on games rather than social justice messages.
“The truth is, we need less — not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote,” Loeffler said. “And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”
She added that supporting a “particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
Dream and WNBA players were angry and although their union called for Loeffler to be ousted as an owner, Engelbert said that would not happen.
In discussing the “Vote Warnock” messaging, Dream forward Elizabeth Williams told ESPN that players had sought to avoid discussing Loeffler. “I think when all this stuff started happening with her, we didn’t want to feel like we were pawns,” Williams told ESPN. “We can only control so much about what the league does [in regard to Loeffler], and so for us, we wanted it to be bigger than that.
“That's kind of been the theme of this season. So we wanted to make sure we could still keep the focus on our social justice movement, and funny enough, Rev. Warnock is somebody who supports everything that we support and just happens to be running in that seat. So it just worked out really well."
Loeffler responded Tuesday, saying in a statement (via the Atlanta Journal Constitution) that she opposes Black Lives Matter as a movement because of its “radical ideals and Marxist foundations.”
“This is just more proof that the out-of-control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them,” she said. “It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June.”
After the Dream lost Tuesday night to the Phoenix Mercury, guard Chennedy Carter explained that Dream players “definitely decided to wear it because he’s for Black Lives Matter. He supports the league and the movement, and we support him. We’re voting for Warnock.”
Williams tweeted a photo of her wearing one of the “Vote Warnock” shirts and quoted John Lewis, the civil rights leader and Georgia congressman who died July 17. “We are @wnba players, but like the late, great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. @ReverendWarnock has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington. Join the movement for a better Georgia.”
The idea of “Vote Warnock” shirts came from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, according to Williams.
“This was a situation where given what was said in regards to the owner of Atlanta and how, basically, she came out against a lot of what the women in our league stand for, I think was emotionally tough for a lot of the women in our league to hear that,” Bird told ESPN. “But very quickly we started to realize that this was only happening for her political gain. This was something that she wanted. And the more noise we made, whether it was a tweet saying to get her out, that was just playing into her hands.
“I’m not some political strategist, but what I do know is that voting is important. And I think our league has always encouraged people to use their voices and to get out and vote. So, what a great way for us to get the word out about this man, and hopefully put him in the Senate. And, if he’s in the Senate, you know who’s not and I’ll just leave it at that.”