Senator Kelly Loeffler uses WNBA as political position in special election

  • Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler – who co-owns the Atlanta Dream – spoke out against the WNBA’s plan for players to wear the “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” warm-ups on Tuesday.
  • In a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Loeffler said the league’s membership in the social justice movement endorsed a “particular political agenda” and “sent a message of exclusion.”
  • A staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, Republican Loeffler is in the midst of a hotly contested special election in which fellow Republican Doug Collins challenges her from the right.
  • Loeffler’s blatant use of his WNBA ownership for political gain while simultaneously calling on the league to “remove politics from sport” is a particularly insidious form of hypocrisy.
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Kelly Loeffler – a sitting US politician who co-owns a professional US sports team – has made it her mission to “take politics out of sport.”

Read that again.

The U.S. Senator and Atlanta Dream stakeholder came under fire on Tuesday after she wrote a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert opposing the league’s plan for players to wear the “Black Lives Matter” and “Say” warm-ups. Her Name ”before the games this season. Loeffler argued that the WNBA’s membership in the social justice movement endorsed a “particular political agenda” and “sent a message of exclusion” at a time when the league could be a “unifying rallying point for the people. American”. by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not surprisingly, WNBA players – 82.7% of whom are people of color, according to the 2019 Racial and Gender Bulletin of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport – did not appreciate Loeffler’s blatant contempt for black humanity. But under Loeffler’s racist calls to replace social justice messages with American flags on every jersey, the Georgian politician’s accusation that sport should be apolitical constitutes a particularly insidious form of hypocrisy.

By calling on the WNBA to “remove politics from the sport,” Loeffler attempted to leverage his Atlanta Dream property for political gain.

Loeffler – an outspoken Republican who has closely aligned with President Donald Trump – is in the midst of a hotly contested special election. The 49-year-old was named to succeed incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson in early 2020 after his resignation due to health complications. Now she’s running to stay at Isakson’s HQ for the remainder of her tenure, but she faces challenges on both sides of the aisle.

Kelly Loeffler is sworn in as US Senator.

REUTERS / Lea Millis

A recent poll commissioned by End Citizens United suggests Loeffler is behind fellow Republican Doug Collins by two points, while his Democratic opponent is just behind in a tight third place, by La Colline. If no candidate receives a majority of votes at election time in November, the top two finalists will face off in a runoff in January.

Collins – who was Trump’s preferred choice to take over Isakson’s post in 2019 – has long served as a representative for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District. He was outspoken in his defense of the president throughout the impeachment inquiry last year and is running to the right of Loeffler, who does not have a long tenure in the political arena and has often been criticized for to have espoused more moderate opinions.

Georgia Representative Doug Collins (right) stands next to President Donald Trump.

REUTERS / Tom Brenner

It’s no surprise, then, that Loeffler would take the opportunity to denounce the WNBA’s membership in Black Lives Matter in order to prove that she is a staunch Conservative. The “ugly face-to-face” within the Republican ranks, as Vox described the race in January, forced Loeffler to reconcile his views with those endorsed by the fringes of the Grand Old Party. His suggestion that the WNBA replace messages condemning police brutality and racism with American flags was handy fruit in an election where every point is crucial.

In the end, Loeffler’s position against the league backfired against all sides.

Kelly Loeffler (right) chats with NBA player Dwight Howard during a 2019 Atlanta Dream game.

Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Collins hit back at his incumbent rival Tuesday night with a scathing statement questioning Loeffler’s involvement in Dream’s “liberal agenda advocacy activity”.

“Kelly has long supported Dream’s dream of on-demand abortion, gun confiscation and other liberal causes,” Collins said in his campaign statement. “She even hired Stacey Abrams as the team’s lawyer and honored her on the court – as Abrams ran for governor against Brian Kemp – as an ‘inspiring woman.’

Atlanta Dream players gather for a 2019 WNBA game.

Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Now that she is claiming to be a conservative to run for office, she should explain her silence and walk away from this team and her past progressive advocacy,” he added.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the biggest stars in women’s basketball were quick to express their vehement disapproval of the senator’s letter. The WNBA is widely regarded as one of the most progressive professional sports leagues in the United States, and many within its ranks have called for Loeffler’s ouster from the league.

The WNBA players union has not mince words in its call to remove the Georgia Republican from his position as owner.

” QUITE ! OUTSIDE ! The WNBPA posted on Twitter.

The league itself rejected Loeffler’s proposal, promising to “continue to use our platforms to advocate vigorously for social justice.” Still, Engelbert stopped short of banning Loeffler from the league, saying the controversial owner “has not been governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day affairs of the team. “.

Loeffler held WNBA players to a double standard by trying to muffle their vocals while amplifying his own

A number of WNBA players made appearances on news networks Tuesday night and Wednesday. In response to Loeffler’s letter, many compared the senator’s most recent comments to Laura Ingraham’s infamous “shut up and dribble” remark aimed at dismissing the views of LeBron James and Kevin Durant in 2018.

In an interview with ABC News Live Tuesday night, former Atlanta Dream star Layshia Clarendon – who currently plays for New York Liberty – said that “what we see so often with sport, culture, music, it’s that you’re okay with black people as long as they kind of stick out or play or are sports stars. “

“Now that we’re sort of taking back our power and asking for, you know, better placement in communities, we are asking for more resources, I think it’s uncomfortable,” she added. “As a black woman, as a queer woman playing sports, you know my existence is political like sports, so I think it was funny asking for the flag too.”

Washington Mystics goalie Natasha Cloud – who has previously announced her decision not to participate in the 2020 WNBA season to advocate for social reform – made a similar point in her interview with Don Lemon on CNN tonight. .

“When our league is 80% black women, it affects us directly,” Cloud said. “Every day when we take these uniforms off we walk the world and we can potentially be George Floyd. Shoot, we could be in our beds and be Breonna Taylor. [Loeffler] to come out and say that we divide and that Black Lives Matter as a movement is a divisive organization, I call it BS on this. “

“Being a partial owner of that and cheering on the sidelines and supporting your players but you don’t support them when they take those uniforms off, that’s a problem,” Cloud added. “It’s not just Loeffler’s problem, it’s America’s problem. They see us as athletes and expect us to shoot and score … and have no opinion. on something that directly affects us. “

The WNBA – and the sports world in general – is well versed in the art of outwitting those who oppose social justice initiatives

Long before the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the widespread racial calculus in America that followed, the WNBA and its players were strong advocates for social and criminal justice reform. When a Minnesota police officer shot dead Philando Castile during a traffic stop in 2016, the Minnesota Lynx publicly called for “justice and accountability” with pre-game warm-ups stating “The Change Begins With Us”.

Maya Moore.

Jessica Hill / AP Images

Six-time All-Star League member Maya Moore has put her professional basketball career on hold to help free those wrongly convicted and jailed by the U.S. criminal justice system. Countless other players have followed in his footsteps following the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Their work is not without precedent. From the Black Power salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium at the 1968 Olympics and Billie Jean King’s fight for gender equality in tennis to Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War and to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel down to protest police brutality during the national anthem, there are countless examples of the sports’ biggest stars using their platforms to advocate for the causes they are most passionate about.

Each of the above people were examined and repelled by taking a stand for what they believed in. Each, in the end, was viewed with hindsight and hindsight adulation, while their opponents fell on the wrong side of the story.

This will also be the case for WNBA players denouncing police brutality via the Black Lives Matter movement, and it will also be the case for opponents like Loeffler. The athletes’ position that Black Lives Matter should be, and one day will be, universally indisputable. And the senator’s suggestion to the contrary – and that athletes are somehow irrelevant in speaking – should be, and one day will be, viewed as universally unacceptable.

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