By CHRISTINA CARREGA, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — WNBA players took a stance against the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream — who is against the league publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement — by showing support for an opponent she is facing in a special election for her state Senate seat.
Players from the Dream, Seattle Storm, Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury walked into the IMG Academy arena in Bradenton, Florida, on Tuesday sporting black T-shirts with the words “VOTE WARNOCK” printed in white.
The shirts were in protest against Atlanta Dream co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who submitted a letter in July expressing her disagreement with the league’s plan to promote Black Lives Matter.
The senator says in the letter that she sees the organization as a “political movement” that is “misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
Prior to Loeffler submitting her letter of dissent, the WNBA and its unions reached an agreement to honor Black women, specifically Breonna Taylor, who died because of alleged police or racial violence by putting the words “Black Lives Matter” on the front of players’ warm-up jerseys and “Say Her Name” on the backs when playing resumes later this month, ESPN reported.
While Loeffler says she “was not consulted” about that decision, she proposed a “common-sense recommendation” of putting an American flag on every jersey and on licensed apparel for players, coaches and fans.
Loeffler was appointed to her seat by the state’s governor in December 2019 following former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s retirement. She is campaigning to officially get voted into her position in a special election November against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and Rev. Raphael Warnock.
The WNBA players showed great favor for Warnock.
“We are @wnba players, but like the late great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. @ReverendWarnock has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington,” wrote Sue Bird, a three-time WNBA championship winner with the Seattle Storm, on her Twitter account.
Warnock wrote on his Twitter account that he is “honored and humbled by the overwhelming support” from the WNBA players.
“This movement gives us the opportunity to fight for what we believe in, and I stand by all athletes promoting social justice on and off the court. #BlackLivesMatter,” wrote Warnock.
Even former Georgia House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams applauded the players while lending her support for Warnock.
Loeffler responded to the players’ shirts in a statement to ESPN: “This is just more proof that the out-of-control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June.”
Elizabeth Williams, a forward on the Atlanta Dream, told ESPN that the league’s executive committee began exploring the shirt idea as a response to Loeffler’s statements.
“We can only control so much about what the league does [in regard to Loeffler], and so for us, we wanted it to be bigger than that,” Williams told ESPN. “That’s kind of been the theme of this season. So we wanted to make sure we could still keep the focus on our social justice movement, and funny enough, Rev. Warnock is somebody who supports everything that we support and just happens to be running in that seat. So it just worked out really well.”
The Seattle Storm defeated the Connecticut Sun 87-74 and the Dream lost to Mercury 81-74.
Loeffler gained headlines earlier this year when The Daily Beast reported that she sold off more than $1 million in stock during the period leading up to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and the precipitous market losses that followed.
The report said Loeffler’s sales began on Jan. 24, the day the Senate Health Committee received a closed-door briefing from administration officials on the coronavirus.
A spokesperson for Loeffler defended her, saying she had no knowledge of the transactions and that it’s a “ridiculous and baseless attack.”
ABC News’ Matthew Mosk and Quinn Scalan contributed to this report
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