Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, has asked WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to back down on the league and its players’ union’s plan to have players wear warmup shirts and jerseys in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The truth is, we need less — not more politics in sports,” said Loeffler in a letter to Engelbert. “In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote.”
Loeffler, who purchased the team in 2011, argued that while “the lives of each and every African American matter,” the political Black Lives Matter movement 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,” Loeffler said.
In a statement, Commissioner Engelbert pushed back on Loeffler’s letter: “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 distanced the league from Loeffler as well, pointing out she “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 WNBPA, the league’s players’ union, in a tweet joined calls for Loeffler to be removed as the Dream’s owner.
A handful of players had previously called for Loeffler’s removal, in part because of her past comments referring to protests in Atlanta after the death of Rayshard Brooks as “mob rule.”
Loeffler acknowledged that criticism in her letter to Engelbert: “I denounced these zones of violence — for which I have been criticized. However, this same group [Black Lives Matter] 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.”
Loeffler has cosponsored a bill that would restrict taxpayer funding for “anarchist jurisdictions” like the area controlled by Seattle protesters.
“This commonsense legislation will restrict federal funding from municipalities that foster or turn a blind eye to chaos in their jurisdictions,” Loeffler said in a release about the bill. “We owe it to the American people to stand strong with the rule of law to help keep our country safe.”