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A few thoughts for today instead of just one:
Kelly Loeffler doesn’t get it. And what’s more, she doesn’t want to.
The Atlanta Dream co-owner, who is also a U.S. Senator from Georgia, reportedly urged WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to scrap plans for players to wear “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” on warm-up jerseys.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Loeffler wrote to Engelbert that using those messages shows a “particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
She added, “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. And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”
This is the attitude of the very privileged, and someone who has no historical knowledge of sports, at least not in this country. Politics has long been part of sports, but as with most things, people don’t consider it “politics” if it’s what they agree with.
If you agree with military flyovers and honoring military members at NFL games or “First Responders Night” at NHL games, even though those things serve as recruiting tools for those groups and they are funded with local and national taxpayer money, then you don’t see them as political.
If you disagree with athletes raising a fist or kneeling during the playing of the anthem to bring attention to citizens being killed in the streets or in their own homes by police and asking for all human beings in this country to enjoy the same basic rights and be treated the same, particularly by state actors, then you start shouting that you don’t want “politics” in sports.
See how that works?
The WNBA is a league that is mostly comprised of Black women, and if those Black women and their teammates wearing clothing that declares “Black Lives Matter” — aka their lives, their children’s lives, their parents’ and loved ones’ lives matter, simply matter — offends you, then you have no business as part of the WNBA.
The league is finally publicly saying something, posting a statement from Engelbert on social media Tuesday afternoon:
“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.”
That’s all well and good, and it’s great that Engelbert made it clear that advocating for social justice is a top issue for the league. But the WNBA needs to force Loeffler out.
At this point, I am far from the only one who feels this way.
Not long after the AJC’s story on Tuesday, the WNBPA, the players’ union, tweeted the link with a strong message: “E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!” Sarah Flynn, a member of the league’s Board of Advocates posted, “She’s gotta go.”
It is an insult to those women and especially the women who are entering the WNBA bubble as members of the Dream, putting their health and the health of those closest to them at risk and enduring substandard amenities in the pursuit of trying to have a semblance of a season in the midst of a pandemic, for Loeffler to have any role within the league for one day more.
Penn State’s basketball coach and the ‘noose’ comment
I know for sure that Rasir Bolton, the former Penn State basketball player who revealed in an interview with The Undefeated that he left the Nittany Lions program after head coach Pat Chambers told Bolton he wanted to help “loosen the noose that’s around your neck” and the events that followed, is not alone.
Even without student-athletes from Oklahoma State, Clemson, Iowa and other schools speaking up to talk about the off-putting and tone-deaf (at best) interactions they’ve had with coaches, I know Bolton was not alone.
The dynamic between college athletes and coaches, in particular, is often difficult; scholarships can be pulled, favorites are played and students who dream of becoming a professional and earning a diploma mean coaches hold an incredible amount of power.
Add in the dynamic of Black students with white coaches who either don’t know — or, far worse, don’t care — about African American history, the origins of slavery, Jim Crow, the terrorism of lynchings and/or segregation and the way many of them live on today. Those students are frequently enduring microaggressions, slights and outright racist behavior in pursuit of their goals.
When Bolton spoke up about Chambers’ comment, Bolton had to visit Penn State’s sports psychologist and learn how to deal with Chambers’ personality type. Chambers underwent no training with how not to deal with his Black players and not flippantly suggest that they have a noose around their necks.
He did, however, note to Bolton that his parents were “well-spoken” and “organized,” a familiar dig that implies it’s surprising to find Black Americans who are either of those things.
In a statement Monday evening, Chambers said in part that it’s “critically important for me to recognize my responsibility in better understanding the experiences of others, and I am committed to doing the necessary work required to do just that.”
He’s not the only one who needs to do that work, and if colleges have any interest in their student-athletes beyond what they contribute to the school’s financial coffers, they’d require all coaches undergo education and training.
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