Players on the Atlanta Dream and throughout the WNBA celebrated the win of Georgia Senator-elect Raphael Warnock over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election Tuesday.
Loeffler is co-owner with a 49 percent stake in the Dream, a team in a league that’s nearly 70 percent Black and whose players have long been vocal advocates and organizers for racial justice, Black Lives Matter, pay equity and other causes.
Loeffler, who became a partial owner in 2010, has expressed views that are in direct conflict with her team’s values, prompting them to campaign against her re-election.
“In 2019, I didn’t know what to call @ReverendWarnock because he was a Dr and a Pastor. Now I gotta add Senator to the list,” Dream star Renee Montgomery, who sat out the 2020 season to focus on social justice projects tweeted. “Congrats to Dr Pastor Senator Warnock!- Dinner on me #clapforheroes.”
Her teammate Elizabeth Williams also took to Twitter to congratulate Warnock: “Congrats Senator-Elect @ReverendWarnock! I'm especially grateful for my fellow @TheWNBPA members on being strategic, fearless, and relentless. And to @staceyabrams, who turned a crushing gubernatorial defeat into sweet, sweet victory for an entire nation.”
Beyond the Atlanta Dream, players across the WNBA also expressed their support for Warnock shortly after he was declared the victor.
The Seattle Storm’s AIysha Clark tweeted, “I’m so proud of our entire league for stepping up and using our platform for change! People joke about our league, but understand this: A LEAGUE OF AMAZING WOMEN TEAMED UP WITH AN AMAZING BLACK WOMAN TO HELP FLIP A SENATE SEAT! Keep making jokes while we keep making change.”
Clark’s teammate Breanna Stewart tweeted, “Winning is cool, but have you ever flipped the senate??? @WNBA @TheWNBPA s/o to all the incredible women who represent the W!! Big time congrats @ReverendWarnock!! We are on the right side of history!!”
Over the summer as sports teams and leagues protested racial injustice, the WNBA announced the formation of a social justice council to initiate conversations and action on inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism, according to the league’s website. The next day, Loeffler sent a letter to Commissioner Cathy Engelbert opposing Black Lives Matter. The following day, WNBA Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike tweeted out a list of practical steps teams, the league and supporters could take. The first action item was to buy out Loeffler’s 49 percent share of the team, or the whole team, and buy “Vote Warnock” T-shirts.
Most of the tension between Loeffler and the Dream players is due to political differences. Loeffler disagreed with players’ absence on the court during the national anthem. And the players say her politics do not represent the league.
Angel McCoughtry, who played for the Dream for 10 years, questioned why Loeffler owns a WNBA team given the league’s history of social justice activism and Loeffler’s contradictory stances, according to The Athletic.
“Why do you own a WNBA team?” she said. “My personal opinion is she has to play the political game to look good in front of her peers.” She added, “When we’re talking about social justice and things, that’s not politics. That’s human rights. I don’t know why she’s mixing the two.”
As the momentum built, Engelbert said Loefller would not be forced to sell and Loeffler said she would not, according to The Athletic.
Ogwumike did not specify whom she or the other players wanted to buy the team. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James expressed interest Wednesday morning in buying the team after putting together an ownership group for the team.
The team’s other co-owner is Mary Brock, who serves on the board of trustees of Spelman College and the board of directors of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Loeffler and Engelbert seem unchanged in their positions to not sell or force a sale, but have not yet publicly commented on the possibility since Warnock won.