Players Call for WNBA to Remove Atlanta Dream Co-Owner Kelly Loeffler

Author:
Publish date:

WNBA stars and the Women's National Basketball Players Association are calling for the league to remove Kelly Loeffler as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream.

Loeffler, a junior U.S. senator from Georgia, has owned the Dream since 2011. The conservative Loeffler recently appeared on FOX News and called Black protesters in Atlanta "mob rule." Georgia is an open-carry state.

On Tuesday, she stated her opposition to the WNBA's announcement that players will wear warmup shirts saying "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" this season. In a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathey Engelbert, she called for
"less" politics in sports and said the phrases on warmup jerseys should be replaced with American flags on all apparel.

"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 in the letter, per The Atlanta Journal-Consitution.

"And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports."

After news of Loeffler's letter to Engelbert spread, the WNBPA tweeted out a link to The Atlanta Journal-Consitution's story on Loeffler's opposition to the jersey plan with the caption "E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!"

Engelbert released a statement on Loeffler following her comments.

"The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team."

Previously, several WNBA current and former players, including former MVP Sheryl Swoopes, responded to Loeffler's FOX News comments by saying, "the WNBA must do better."

Shortly after Swoopes's tweet, many players echoed similar sentiments.

Guard Renee Montgomery, who opted out of the 2020 season to focus on social justice, is one of a few Dream players who have commented on Loeffler. In response to the FOX News interview, Montgomery tweeted, "The second amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights. The problem some may be having is who is bearing the arms."

Later on Tuesday, Montgomery tweeted at Loeffler saying she would love to talk with her about the league's social justice movement.

"I'm pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement & all that it stands for. 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?"

Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier responded to Loeffler's jersey comments and told reporters on a call, "If you don't understand what Black Lives Matter means by now, I think that says more about you."

The league's jersey announcement came as part of the WNBA and WNBPA's new initiative, "The Social Justice Movement," which launched Monday. The two sides also agreed to feature the names of women who have died in connection to police brutality and racial violence, including Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, on players' jerseys.

The team co-owner has also posted a message on social media supporting the anti-LGBT group Family Project Alliance of Georgia, saying transgender athletes should not be allowed to participate in girls' and women's sports. 

In March, Loeffler was implicated for potential insider trading for stock trades she made weeks before the coronavirus caused markets to plunge. The Justice Department closed her case in May and she was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.