Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican senator from Georgia, is calling on WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to alter the league's plan to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement this season, according to a letter obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein.
"The lives of each and every African American matter, and there's no debating the fact that there is no place for racism in our country," Loeffler wrote. "However, I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement ... I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion."
The Women's National Basketball Players Association tweeted a link to Bluestein's story with the caption: "E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!" Shortly after, Engelbert publicly responded in a league statement.
"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," Engelbert said. "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.”
Among the WNBA's plans this season are to have "Black Lives Matter" painted on its courts and to feature the names of female victims of police brutality - such as Breonna Taylor - on the players' uniforms. The latter initiative was suggested by former Dream star Angel McCoughtry, who now plays for the Las Vegas Aces.
Loeffler was appointed as the successor to Sen. Johnny Isakson in December 2019. The 49-year-old is now running to retain her seat in a U.S. Senate special election slated for November.
The senator's stance against the Black Lives Matter protests came into focus in late June following an appearance on Fox News. She referred to legally armed protestors as operating under "mob rule," which stood in stark contrast to her staunch support of Second Amendment rights.
In the weeks since the clip aired, retired WNBA legends such as Sheryl Swoopes and Swin Cash, and active players including Sue Bird, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Alysha Clark, have publicly supported Loeffler's removal as a co-owner of the Dream.
Naismith Hall of Famer Alex English, who's a member of the WNBPA's board of advocates, said Loeffler had "Donald Sterling vibes," evoking the former Los Angeles Clippers owner who was forced to sell his team in 2014 after his racist comments about Black people were publicized.
Loeffler originally purchased her ownership stake in the Dream alongside philanthropist Mary Brock in 2011. Ironically, the politician also advocated for the separation of politics from sports in her letter to Engelbert.
"The truth is, we need less - not more - politics in sports," Loeffler wrote. "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."