WNBA players are furious with Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, after the U.S. senator from Georgia wrote a letter to the league commissioner asking that proposed warmup jerseys reading “Black Lives Matter” be replaced with ones showing the American Flag. In a July 7 letter to Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kelly wrote, “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.” She went on to call the Black Lives Matter movement in particular “divisive,” in a tweet from her personal account.
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) July 7, 2020
Kelly continued in her letter, “And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.” In addition to not having “Black Lives Matter” on warmup jerseys, “Say Her Name” on WNBA apparel is another idea Kelly wants scrapped. She even tweeted, “@WNBA should stand for and unite around the American Flag — not divisive political movements like BLM that unapologetically seek to defund the police.”
Commissioner Engelbert responded to Kelly’s letter by announcing, “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 a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.”
Players and fans were incredibly upset with Kelly’s stance. Dream guard Renee Montgomery tweeted, “I’m pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement and all that it stands for.” Renee had announced on June 18 her intention to skip the 2020 season to focus on racial justice initiatives. She added in her tweet, “I was already sitting out this season and this is an example of why. I would love to have a conversation with you about the matter if you’re down?” while tagging Kelly.
Dear @SenatorLoeffler ….
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?
— Renee Montgomery (@ReneeMontgomery) July 7, 2020
Even the WNBA’s Players Association was livid with Kelly’s stance and would like to see her gone from WNBA ownership. The WNBPA tweeted the AJC‘s article about Kelly’s opposition to Black Lives Matter messaging in the league with the caption read, “E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!”
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
The WNBA announced on July 6 that their “2020 season is dedicated to social justice with games honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SAYHERNAME campaign.” In a press release the league announced, “The Women’s National Basketball Association and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) today announced the launch of a new platform, The Justice Movement, and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council.”
The statement continued, “In its inaugural season, the Social Justice Council will cultivate designated spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, and other activations to address this country’s long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities.” It added, “Throughout the season, players will wear NIKE-branded warm-up shirts that display ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the front. Additionally, ‘Say Her Name’ will adorn the back of the shirts. ‘Black Lives Matter’ will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.”
WNBA announces a 2020 season dedicated to social justice with games honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SAYHERNAME campaign.
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 6, 2020
Kelly got her place in Washington D.C. after Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp appointed to her to an open U.S. Senate seat in Dec. 2019, after Republican Johnny Isakson experienced health problems. She was sworn in on Jan. 6, 2020 and goes up against 20 other Republican, Democratic and Independent candidates in a Nov. 3, 2020 special election for control of the seat. She’s co-owned the Dream since 2011.