Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler angered a lot of players by opposing the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Republican is trying to get re-elected to her U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, where the Democratic nominee is a pastor named Dr Raphael G. Warnock. Earlier this week, players from Loeffler’s own Atlanta team, along with others on the Seattle, Chicago and Phoenix franchises, wore “Vote Warnock” t-shirts before their games.
Elizabeth Williams, an executive in the players’ union who has played for the Dream since 2016, said in an interview on Monday that the players plan to “vocally support” Warnock in the coming weeks, and that players have had “several” conversations with him.
“When we realized what our owner was doing and how she was kind of using us and the Black Lives Matter movement for her political gain, we felt like we didn’t want to feel kind of lost as the pawns in this,” Williams said.
Loeffler reacted with a statement in which she said “This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball.”
This level of public protest — players on a team openly campaigning against their own owner — is virtually unheard of in professional sports. But it is not out of character for players in the W.N.B.A., a league that has frequently shown a willingness to tackle social justice issues publicly. In 2016, W.N.B.A. players were among the first professional athletes in the United States to demonstrate against police brutality, also with T-shirts. The W.N.B.A. initially fined those players before rescinding the fines.
With files from CBC Sports, New York Times