WNBA players openly rebelled against US Senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler by publicly endorsing her opponent in her upcoming Senate race.
Players across the league wore "Vote Warnock" T-shirts before and after Tuesday night's games because "he aligns with a lot of the things we align with," Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner said.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Loeffler blamed "out of control cancel culture" for the players' decision to collectively stand against her.
Republican Senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler blamed "out of control cancel culture" for WNBA players' move to publicly endorse her political rival, Reverend Raphael Warnock.
Stars from across the league, including those on Loeffler's own team, wore "Vote Warnock" T-shirts before, during, and after Tuesday night's games to explicitly rebel against the controversial politician.
In response to Tuesday night's onslaught, the conservative businesswoman leaned on criticisms she has previously levied against the league.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Loeffler — an ally to President Donald Trump who refers to herself as a "political outsider" despite currently holding office — said, "the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball."
"This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them," Loeffler added.
—Niles Edward Francis (@NilesGApol) August 5, 2020
Players held Zoom meetings with Warnock to better understand his platforms. Once they determined that "he aligns with a lot of the things we align with," according to Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner, they were comfortable showing public support for his candidacy.
"When we realized what our owner was doing and how she was kind of using us and the Black Lives Matter movement for her political gain, we felt like we didn't want to feel kind of lost as the pawns in this," Dream center Elizabeth Williams told The New York Times' Sopan Deb.
—Sue Bird (@S10Bird) August 5, 2020
—Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 5, 2020
—Elizabeth Williams (@E_Williams_1) August 4, 2020
The "Vote Warnock" movement is not the first instance in which WNBA players have spoken out against Loeffler, a first-term Senator who, shortly after she was appointed to the position by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, was investigated for insider trading. Though the US Department of Justice has since dropped its probe into the businesswoman-turned-politician, Loeffler's more recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement have prompted players to demand her ouster from the league.
When the league announced that it would devote the 2020 season to raising awareness and seeking justice for Black women like Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and more who have been victims of police brutality and violence, Loeffler was forceful in her calls for the WNBA "to remove politics from sports." Players have worn "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" T-Shirts, and each player's jersey features Taylor's full name under their own surname.
Loeffler publicly opposed the players' and league's efforts on this front. In a letter penned to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, the senator railed against the Black Lives Matter movement as "a particular political agenda [that] undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion," per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She suggested that players should instead have an American flag stitched into their jerseys.
Though Engelbert has previously resisted taking action against Loeffler, it remains unclear how the league will respond to the players' latest actions against the controversial Atlanta team owner. WNBA representatives did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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