Players for the Atlanta Dream and other WNBA teams wore “Vote Warnock” T-shirts on Tuesday ahead of a slate of games in Florida, in a remarkable rebuke to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler after she criticized the league for supporting Black Lives Matter initiatives.
The T-shirts urged support for the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat challenging Loeffler in the November special election. Loeffler, who has co-owned the Dream since 2011, has faced sharp criticism from fans and players since she wrote an open letter in June to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert opposing plans to honor the social justice movement.
Among the Atlanta Dream players who wore the shirts was Dream forward Elizabeth Williams, who invoked the late civil rights hero John Lewis in a social media post.
“We are players, but like the late, great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. (Rev. Warnock) has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington,” Williams wrote on Twitter, sharing a link to Warnock’s website. “Join the movement.”
In a statement late Tuesday, Loeffler said she remains opposed to Black Lives Matter because of its “radical ideals and Marxist foundations.”
“This is just more proof that the out-of-control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them,” she said. “It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June.”
Since her campaign released the letter, Loeffler has faced stinging pushback from national Democrats, WNBA stars and current and former players of the Dream, which released a statement that concluded with: “Black Lives Matter. Vote in November.”
WNBA players formed a social justice council months ago which has hosted calls featuring 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, the mother of Breonna Taylor and Kimberlé Crenshaw, the creator of #SayHerName, which amplifies the stories of Black women killed by police brutality and violence.
Players across the league, which is majority Black, have called for Loeffler to be ousted from the WNBA. Englebert has said the co-owner will not be forced to sell her stake in the team.
Loeffler has used her criticism of the “cancel culture” to woo conservative supporters ahead of the November election as she competes against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins for Republican votes. She’s demanded that the WNBA abandon plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement and instead put an American flag on every jersey.
“I want to speak for all Americans who feel like they don’t have a voice, who feel like they’re going to be canceled if they speak out against a political movement,” she said at a recent campaign rally. “That’s not freedom, that’s not America.”
Collins, meanwhile, has questioned why she hadn’t been as vocal about earlier league initiatives, such as a promotion a few years ago that allowed fans to donate a portion of ticket sales to Planned Parenthood, the reproductive healthcare organization vilified by some conservatives.
“She just has no moorings,” Collins said Tuesday during a campaign stop in northwest Georgia. “It’s what happens when you have never had to take a stand on anything - a history where she doesn’t comport to what she wants to run for now.”