If the WNBA’s support for Black Lives Matter is going to cost them fans, then so be it.
Georgia Republican Senator, Kelly Loeffler who co-owns the Atlanta Dream franchise has expressed her fears that the league’s support for BLM could drive fans always, ESPN reports.
“I think a lot of people feel that they may not have a place,” Loeffler said Tuesday in an interview with ESPN. “They may feel excluded from this sport, and other sports that make them feel like American values aren’t at the core of what we’re doing here.”
Early July, Loeffler addressed a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert objecting to the WNBA’s promotion of the Black Lives Matter–which includes painting courts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the league will hold its season. She also voiced her opinion of placing the American flag on jerseys.
“The statement, ‘Black lives matter,’ is very different than the organization Black Lives Matter,” Loeffler said. “I think we all agree the life of every African American is important. There’s no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there’s a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment. The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family. It promotes violence and antisemitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for.”
Her statements upset many WNBA players who called on the WNBA to force her out as co-owner, a move that Engelbert said the organization would not do but says she is aware of several parties interested in buying the team.
“They can’t push me out for my views,” Loeffler told ESPN. “I intend to own the team. I am not going, she said, adding she is going to remain part of the team when asked if she was aware of the parties interested in buying. “I have long welcomed additional partners as part of making sure that we continue to grow the team, but I will continue to remain part of the team.”
Loeffler admitted she has minimal involvement in the team’s day-to-day operations, but she funds the team and will remain supporting and watching the team this season, despite the backlash she has received.
“I’ve always been supportive of my team, though I know we may have different views,” Loeffler said. “But the best way that we can have a common understanding is by working together on it, not shutting someone out.”
Dream Star Renee Montgomery has chosen to sit out this season to focus on social justice initiatives. In a recent July 7 tweet, she said she “would love to have a conversation with [Leoffler] about this matter.” An offer Loeffler said she was unaware of but open to.
“That’s always been my approach is one that, where we have a dialogue, not where we call for someone to be canceled or fired or pushed out or kicked out,” Loeffler said.
While on the other hand, Las Vegas Aces player Angel McCoughtry, who spent her first 10 seasons with the Atlanta team, told reporters that Loeffler is using the league for political posturing.
“As far as Kelly is concerned, I think that right now, she has not reflected what the Dream logo stands for,” McCoughtry said. “If she really did have [problems] with LGBTQ or Black Lives Matter, I don’t think she would have had us players in her home. Why do you own a WNBA team? I think she has to play the political game to look good in front of her peers. OK, do that. If you want to play the political game, do that, but don’t include us in it.”
Loeffler is a candidate in a special Georgia election on November 3.
However, Loeffler has voiced her disappointment by anyone who questions her motives. “I think that women athletes can be some of the first to understand what it means to speak out and to have that tolerance,” Loeffler said. “It’s been pretty shocking to see that reaction.”