Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, has written WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to express her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and ask the league to put an American flag on every jersey when the league resumes play later this month.
Loeffler was responding to the WNBA having approved displaying “Black Lives Matter” prominently on courts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the league will hold its season. The WNBA and its union also agreed to honor women such as Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen who have died in connection with police action or alleged racial violence.
Loeffler, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, wrote, “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.”
She told Engelbert that she was “incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league,” adding, “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.”
In the letter, Loeffler said she thought adding the American flag to jerseys and licensed apparel would be a “common-sense” solution.
“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,” she wrote. “I believe we should put an American flag on every jersey. Include it in our licensed apparel for players, coaches and fans.”
A number of current and former WNBA players have asked Engelbert to remove Loeffler as co-owner of the Dream, including Sheryl Swoopes, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Natasha Cloud, Alysha Clark and Sue Bird. Swoopes tweeted that the “WNBA MUST do better.”
New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon, who used to play for the Dream, 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 on Tuesday night, “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.”
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
The WNBA issued a statement Tuesday 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.”