When it comes to social justice, the WNBA is certainly among the champions of the effort.
Players such as Maya Moore and Natasha Cloud have been prominent figures in the fight for change, especially in the case of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only that, but the league itself is an extremely diverse community that prides itself on equality and using its platform for good.
So when a partial owner of one of the WNBA’s teams criticized the league for supporting #BLM, there was going to be backlash from players and fans alike.
Senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) did just that.
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
A message from Loeffler
On Tuesday, Loeffler expressed her opposition to the efforts the WNBA is taking to support the Black Lives Matter movement. In a letter obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, she recently wrote to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert:
“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,” said Loeffler.
“However, I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country. I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
Loeffler’s point about diversity and inclusion is especially ironic here, however, considering how she wants to draw attention away from the fact that Black people are dying in the US at the hands of police brutality.
Not only that, but she politicizes the movement that is fighting against these tragedies. What’s so political about people dying?
The senator and co-owner did not stop there. She also proposed adding the American flag to the player’s attire and fan merchandise.
“Though I was not consulted about—nor do I agree with the League’s decision in this matter, I am proposing a common-sense recommendation to ensure we reflect the values of freedom and equality for all,” Loeffler said. “I believe we should put an American flag on every jersey. Include it in our licensed apparel for players, coaches and fans.”
The rhetoric she uses here appears to strongly echo with that of “All Lives Matter” supporters. Despite the seemingly-benevolent slogan, it’s generally used as a way to divert attention and care away from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Freedom for all?
Well, the systems in place in this country aren’t targeting white people the way they are BIPOC communities.
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 (@itsreneem_) July 7, 2020
“All of us have a constitutional right to hold and to express our views. But to subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion,” said Loeffler. “The truth is, we need less—not more politics in sports.”
For someone against bringing “politics” into sports, it certainly appears that Loeffler is stirring up politically-related controversy in the WNBA. Especially when she, being a senator, refers to protestors and their establishment of autonomous zones in some areas of the country as “mob rule.”
Soon after Loeffler’s message, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement saying:
“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.”
Loeffler’s insider trading controversy
For one who claims to be against merging politics into other fields, Kelly Loeffler has actually been previously accused of using her political position for private gain. In fact, she was previously investigated for insider trading earlier this year.
As a member of the Senate Health Committee, Loeffler was accused of using her access to information about the coronavirus which was new at the time to determine how to invest her money.
Specifically, she allegedly sold millions-worth of stocks shortly after a private, all-senators briefing on the coronavirus in January. This also happened to coincide with the approximate time the pandemic began to negatively impact the US economy.
She was also further scrutinized considering her husband Jerry Sprecher is the CEO of the International Stock Exchange, which also owns the New York Stock Exchange.
Loeffler and spokespeople on her behalf have continually denied these allegations.
This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020
After an investigation that lasted several months, the Senate Ethics Committee and the US Department of Justice dropped the insider trading investigation against her, and other Senators including Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last month.
The WNBA and its fight for social justice
Despite the criticism from Kelly Loeffler, the WNBA and its players are still committed to fighting for social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some players such as Maya Moore and Natasha Cloud even sacrificed their careers to focus on social justice issues.
— TMZ (@TMZ) July 6, 2020
Some of the efforts the WNBA is taking in solidarity with the movement include displaying the “Black Lives Matter” slogan on courts, such as the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The warm-up shirts for players will also feature the same slogan, as well as “Say Her Name,” which is a reference to Breonna Taylor. They will also have jerseys which specifically honor her.
These and the other initiatives the league is taking are immensely positive steps in honoring victims of police brutality such as Sandra Bland, Vanessa Guillen, and Breonna Taylor.
The efforts of the WNBA and its players’ social justice efforts show just how powerful they are in the fight for positive change. These are great leaps not just for the sports world itself, but the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.
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