Players of the Atlanta Dream wearing their “VOTE WARNOCK” shirts Credit- Elizabeth Williams
WNBA players helped oust Kelly Loeffler from the Senate by backing her opponent Reverend Raphael Warnock. Many questions remain, however, about her position as owner in the league. Loeffler has lost the trust of her players, who refuse to say her name in interviews, and have even posted critical responses to Loffler’s tweets. Loeffler has owned the Atlanta Dream since 2010 and has vowed not to give up her stake. Nevertheless, in a tweet on January 6, 2021, LeBron James said, “Think I’m gone put together an ownership group for The Dream.” and then asked who was interested in joining with the hashtag “BlackVotesMatter.”
In early July 2020, Georgia Senator and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA franchise the Atlanta Dream, Kelly Loeffler objected to plans for her players to wear warm up jerseys reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” according to the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution.” These phrases would show support for the racial justice protests that went on over the summer. In a letter to the league, Loeffler proposed putting American flags on the uniforms instead.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had appointed Loeffler to fill Senator Johnny Isakson’s seat after he unexpectedly retired in 2019. To keep the seat for which she was appointed, Loeffler had to run in the Georgia Senate Special election in 2020 against Reverend Raphael Warnock. For her campaign, she clearly aligned with President Trump and embraced many of his conservative values. She made claims against abortion rights and seconded the need for “Law and Order” when she described a gathering of armed black protesters in Atlanta as “mob rule.” In a recent ad, she even advertised herself as “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” Her campaign shocked her players, who knew her as an inclusive boss, according to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post.
According to NBC Sports Washington, 14 players in the WNBA took the season off to focus on social justice issues, to play overseas, or to follow health reasons. After Loeffler released the letter, players in the league wore shirts that read “VOTE WARNOCK.” In the few days after the shirts were worn, Warnock’s campaign gained more than $236,000 and added nearly 4,000 new followers on Twitter, according to a “Washington Post” article. Buckner’s article said players chose to support Warnock, not only because of how Loeffler denounced the Black Lives Matter movement but also because of her stance on other social justice issues. Before the WNBA’s involvement in the political race, Rev. Warnock only polled at 9% according to “The Washington Post.” As of Wednesday, January 6, Warnock became the first black senator in Georgia, and some attribute this victory to the support and awareness from the WNBA.