Dream Owner Kelly Loeffler Faces Backlash for Protest Opposition

Written by on July 9, 2020

On Monday, the W.N.B.A. announced that its upcoming season can be “devoted to social justice with video games honoring the Black Lives Matter motion.”

It didn’t appear to be a comparatively controversial or stunning message, contemplating how engaged W.N.B.A. players have been in the movement, which has additionally drawn help from a variety of firms and even the most controversy-averse sports leagues, like the N.F.L., because the killing of George Floyd in Could.

However the expression — and the motion it helps — bothered not less than one W.N.B.A. proprietor, who additionally occurs to be a sitting senator in a tough election struggle. Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream and has been vocally criticizing the Black Lives Matter motion and the league’s embrace of it.

Loeffler is now going through widespread denunciations from gamers across the league. The W.N.B.A. commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, launched a press release this week distancing the league from Loeffler. Now, the league is grappling with questions on whether or not an proprietor who seems to be essentially against the league’s said values can stay in her place.

The battle spilled into the open on Tuesday after Loeffler publicized a letter, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Structure, that she had written to Engelbert, wherein she expressed opposition to the league’s plan to permit gamers to put on warm-up jerseys with the phrases “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Title,” a reference to a motion to spotlight Black women who’ve died by the hands of the police.

“The reality is, we want much less — no more politics in sports activities. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports activities has the ability to be a unifying antidote,” Loeffler wrote. She added, “I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political motion, which has advocated for the defunding of police, known as for the removing of Jesus from church buildings and the disruption of the nuclear household construction, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction throughout the nation.”

As an alternative, she known as for an American flag to be positioned on each jersey when the league begins play later this month on the IMG Academy in Florida.

The backlash from the W.N.B.A. group was instant. The gamers union posted on Twitter, “E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!” in reference to Loeffler. Engelbert issued a press release that reaffirmed the league’s dedication to “vigorously advocate for social justice.” The assertion added: “Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is now not concerned within the day-to-day enterprise of the group.”

In an emailed assertion, the Dream stated, “The Atlanta Dream isn’t a political entity — we’re within the enterprise of sports activities and leisure. The Dream gamers and workers are centered on constructing a profitable group on the court docket, profitable video games and making a second-to-none fan expertise.”

Even the group’s assertion appeared to contradict the identification that the W.N.B.A. has been attempting to domesticate — one in all a “daring, progressive basketball league,” as its assertion on Monday stated.

Certainly, in 2016 W.N.B.A. gamers have been among the many first skilled athletes within the U.S. to demonstrate against police brutality. After initially fining these gamers, the W.N.B.A. reversed course, and in recent times the league has gone out of its approach to lean into politics and encourage their gamers to do the identical. In 2018, for instance, the W.N.B.A. partnered with Planned Parenthood for the “Take a Seat, Take a Stand” initiative — which despatched a portion of ticket proceeds to a number of teams, Deliberate Parenthood included.

PictureTwo Phoenix Mercury players kneeled during the national anthem in September 2016, part of an early wave of demonstrations against police brutality among W.N.B.A. players.
Credit score…Darron Cummings/Related Press

These initiatives have led many to wonder if Loeffler’s values can coexist with the W.N.B.A.’s.

“There’s no place within the league for her,” the Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker said Tuesday on TNT.

Terri Jackson, the manager director of the Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Gamers Affiliation, stated in an interview that the union deliberate to satisfy with Engelbert to debate subsequent steps in addressing Loeffler’s position within the W.N.B.A.

“This isn’t a couple of disagreement,” Jackson stated. “What now we have proper now could be a scenario which affordable minds might agree that there’s simply no room for divisive language.”

It’s unclear whether or not the W.N.B.A. will sanction Loeffler any additional. A spokeswoman for the league declined to remark.

However Loeffler has given no indication that she plans on stepping down as proprietor. Fairly the other: On Wednesday evening, she informed Fox News’s Laura Ingraham that she wouldn’t be giving up her possession stake. She additionally cited so-called “cancel tradition” as the explanation for the backlash.

“This isn’t about me,” Loeffler stated. “That is about each American’s proper to talk out. To take pleasure in free speech and to help no matter trigger and never be canceled. We’ve this cancel tradition that’s threatening America and the inspiration of it’s that People are afraid to talk out due to the cancel tradition. And I’m not going to be silenced by it.”

A former high school basketball player, Loeffler took over possession of the group, together with the philanthropist Mary Brock, in 2011 — forming a uncommon all-female possession group in skilled sports activities.

“It was the chance to unravel that enterprise problem,” she told CNN of what drew her to the group, whereas “being part of the rising motion in direction of progress in skilled ladies’s sports activities.”

In 2013, Loeffler’s title was floated as a potential candidate for an open Senate seat in Georgia to replace the retiring Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Along with her wealth and outsider standing she was seen as a potential boon to a run. She had additionally been a longtime donor to Republicans. She in the end handed on operating.

However on the finish of final 12 months, when Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, introduced that he was resigning for well being causes, there was one other alternative. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, appointed Loeffler to the seat, over the objections of President Trump, who preferred Representative Doug Collins — organising a contentious particular election in November. (For this Georgia election, there isn’t any major. To win, a candidate should get 50 p.c of the vote. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the highest two candidates have a runoff. The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, is taken into account to be the top Democrat in the race.)

Loeffler’s appointment was a sore spot for some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, and he or she has gone to nice lengths to point out that she is in lock step with the president, who has made several inflammatory racial comments within the wake of Floyd’s loss of life.

“Collins is considered being very conservative and extremely popular with Trump supporters and I feel she desires to solidify her bona fides in that very same vogue and this is likely to be a means of doing that,” Scott H. Ainsworth, a political-science professor on the College of Georgia, stated, referring to Loeffler’s letter to Englebert.

Credit score…John Bazemore/Related Press

However the letter additionally drew a flood of criticism from gamers, together with Renee Montgomery, a Dream participant who’s sitting out the season to deal with selling social justice.

“I’m fairly unhappy to see that my group possession isn’t supportive of the motion & all that it stands for,” Montgomery wrote on Twitter, addressing Loeffler directly. “I used to be already sitting out this season & that is an instance of why. I might like to have a dialog with you concerning the matter in the event you’re down?”

Layshia Clarendon, a guard for the Connecticut Solar, also denounced Loeffler in a joint interview with Engelbert with ABC Information on Tuesday.

“That’s what we see so usually with sports activities, with tradition, with music, is that you simply’re OK with Black folks so long as they type of keep of their place,” Clarendon stated.

Clarendon, who spent a number of seasons as a member of the Dream, lamented on Twitter that she had “shared a meal” with Loeffler and “stepped foot in her home.”

And Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who got here in second for the Georgia governor’s seat to Kemp and who joined the board of the W.N.B.A. gamers’ union final summer season, said Loeffler’s letter was a “regrettable alternative of division over unity” in a press release on Twitter. (An additional twist: Abrams was a lawyer for Loeffler when Loeffler bought the Dream.)

The battle has spilled over into the Senate race. On Tuesday, Collins expressed settlement with many W.N.B.A. gamers, however for a unique purpose: He known as for Loeffler to “get out of the liberal agenda advocacy enterprise” and to promote her stake within the Dream. Dr. Warnock, conversely, stated that Loeffler had “chosen to present into the slender impulses of tribalism and bigotry.”

Whereas Loeffler’s future position with the league is unclear, Engelbert made her group’s place clear in the interview with ABC: “Kelly’s views should not according to these of the W.N.B.A. and its gamers.”

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