As Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) doubles down on her stance against the Black Lives Matter movement, the WNBA Players Association is meeting with the league to discuss her role going forward as co-owner of the Atlanta Dream.
To Loeffler, the answer is simple: She said she won’t be stepping down.
Loeffler: Keep politics out of sports
Since publishing a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Tuesday denouncing the league’s plans to dedicate its season to social justice, Loeffler has made the media rounds to promote her message ahead of a contentious special election.
She addressed local Georgia media on Wednesday, saying she sees “politics coming into sports” and alleging she is being canceled.
“What I see is politics coming into sports," she said. "No one has asked politics to come into sports. Sports are about unifying people. People from all walks of life from all political views should be welcomed in sports and to cancel someone because they want to protect innocent life; because they are fighting for the unborn; because they support the Second Amendment; because I support the constitutional rights that have been given to us by God? Why would that not fit as part of American sports culture? That should be a tenet of sports, is to welcome all views.”
The WNBA, a league made up of 80 percent Black women, announced Monday it would dedicate its season to social justice, an issue its players care deeply about. Some players have stepped away from playing to address racial injustice and have brought the issue to national attention in years past.
Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat by Gov. Brian Kemp late last year, took issue with this. She wrote “supporting a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.” In recent weeks she has said that Black protestors in Atlanta were practicing “mob rule,” which began calls for her ouster as an owner.
Loeffler: I won’t give up team
The WNBPA was clear in saying it wants Loeffler out this week. Individual players have also taken to social media to say they want her gone, and two leaders in the social justice movement — Mystics star Natasha Cloud and Liberty standout Layshia Clarendon — have made media appearances explaining why they believe she needs to go.
WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson said the union plans to meet with Engelbert to discuss the next steps and address Loeffler’s role in the league, per the New York Times.
“This is not about a disagreement,” Jackson said. “What we have right now is a situation which reasonable minds could agree that there is just no room for divisive language.”
In an appearance with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham — in which she touched on patriotism, defunding the police, the “nuclear family” and “cancel culture” — Loeffler said she would not be stepping down. She also said the league should “unite around the American flag.”
My message is simple: we should unite around the American flag. We should keep politics out of sports. We shouldn’t promote movements that encourage violence.— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) July 9, 2020
And I will not be silent about it. Watch my full interview with @IngrahamAngle here. #gapol #gasen pic.twitter.com/yVNz7IqFuU
Loeffler and Mary Brock bought the team in 2011. They are a rare all-female ownership group and have talked for the last decade about building community. One year ago, Loeffler pointed to the players individuality and passion as reasons she’s excited about the league moving forward in an interview with The Athletic:
“And that’s really the potential of this game: to have people understand who these players are. I think that really captures people’s imaginations, interest and loyalties when they really know the players. I think that is the next level of potential in this league. It is really about understanding these athletes and how tremendously hard they work, how physically strong they are but also what they are doing in the community and outside of the arena.”
The Dream have an all-Black starting lineup. Veteran star Renee Montgomery was the first WNBA player (outside of Maya Moore) to announce she would sit out the season at IMG Academy this month to pursue social-justice causes in Atlanta.
Co-owner runs for election in Georgia
The race for Loeffler’s seat in Georgia includes 20 candidates, and she notably was not a favorable choice of President Donald Trump when she was appointed. Trump preferred Rep. Doug Collins, who as of June led Loeffler by two points in the race, per The Hill.
Since her appointment in December, there has been concern about her involvement in both the league and government. She was accused of insider trading in March and has upped her political appearances in recent weeks as the election looms in November. With that, given she is sitting in a political seat, come political stances.
The WNBA, in a statement after Loeffler’s letter, said she has not served as governor of the team since October 2019 and is not involved in day-to-day operations.
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