In a letter to Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, stated that she opposes the Black Lives Matter movement and wants the league, which has approved featuring “Black Lives Matter” on the courts where the games are played and warm-up shirts for the players with “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back, to emblazon an American flag on the jersey of every player.
“Say Her Name” refers to Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen, among others, ESPN noted.
Loeffler’s letter stated, as the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted:
When I purchased a stake in the Atlanta Dream nearly a decade ago, it really was a dream come true for me. Sports are such a powerful, dynamic force in uniting communities across our great country. People from all walks of life are unified by a team, a game, a championship. Everyone wears the same uniform – even when they don’t share the same political views.
I appreciate your hard work as the WNBA Commissioner, especially during these challenging moments, but I was incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league.
Players, coaches, and yes – team owners – share differing opinions on many issues. 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.
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.
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. 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.
Amid the recent unrest in many American cities, this movement advocated the creation of lawless autonomous zones in places like Atlanta. I denounced these zones of violence—for which I have been criticized. However, this same group fell silent over the fourth of July weekend when an 8-year-old girl was murdered under the “mob rule” that I warned about days earlier. This is not a political movement that the league should be embracing, and I emphatically oppose it.
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. I believe we should put an American flag on every jersey. Include it in our licensed apparel for players, coaches and fans.
As our nation battles COVID-19, economic hardship, and the fight to ensure justice for all, we need a unifying rallying point for the American people. I sincerely hope you will consider my proposal. Because if we can’t acknowledge, much less unite behind our flag during this struggle, we’ll never achieve the goals we all want for each other.
Our flag has weathered countless storms, wars, and civil unrest. It symbolizes the strengths unique to our country and the American people. It stands for freedom, equality and hope. This important symbol will unite us as we work toward a better, brighter, and more equitable tomorrow.
As ESPN reported, Loeffler’s letter elicited outrage from WNBA players, including former Dream member and current New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon, who tweeted, “I can’t believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly’s house and shared a meal with her. It’s actually really hurtful to see her true colors I had no idea while I played for ATL she felt this way. Happy to own us as long as we stay quiet and perform.”
Clarendon told ABC News Live:
That’s what we see so often with sports, with culture, with music is that you’re OK with Black people as long as they kind of stay in their place or they’re performing or they’re sports stars. So now that we’re kind of taking our power back and asking for, you know, better placing in communities, we’re asking for more resources to be poured in, I think it is uncomfortable.
You know, it’s really sad to see … like, as angry as I am, I’m really hurt because, particularly for a woman to do that as well, just kind of cuts the knife in a little bit deeper, and for sure, for her to be so divisive, I think it’s really tough, and as a Black woman, as a queer woman playing in sports, you know, my existence is political like sport is, and so I think it was funny to ask the flag as well.”
Dream guard Renee Montgomery tweeted, “I’m pretty sad to see that my team ownership is not supportive of the movement and all that it stands for. I was already sitting out this season and this is an example of why. I would love to have a conversation with you about the matter if you’re down?”
The WNBA stated: “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.”
The WNBA players’ union tweeted:
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
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