WNBA stars are openly endorsing Reverend Raphael Warnock for the US Senate seat currently held by Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler — a Georgia Republican — previously used her position as a team owner as a political stance in her hotly contested special election despite calling on the WNBA "to remove politics from sports."
Players called on WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to ban Loeffler from the league after her comments against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Players across the WNBA have long been vocal opponents of Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican who also happens to co-own the league's Atlanta franchise.
But as the special election for Loeffler's appointed senatorial seat heats up, stars are using their platforms to explicitly rebel against the controversial politician.
Prior to Tuesday night's matchup between the Phoenix Mercury and the Atlanta Dream, members of both teams expressed support for one of Loeffler's Democratic opponents — Reverend Raphael Warnock — by wearing T-shirts that read "Vote Warnock."
According to a representative for the Mercury, players on the Chicago Sky also donned the black and white shirts prior to their game against the Dallas Wings. Players on the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun also wore the shirts prior to their game on Tuesday night.
Phoenix's social media channels were flooded with photos of players sporting the black and white shirt while heading into the arena and warming up for the game.
Even the greatest player in league history — Diana Taurasi — suited up in "Vote Warnock" garb before tip-off.
Though the Dream were unsurprisingly far more reserved in sharing photos of anyone endorsing Warnock on their platforms, Atlanta starting center Elizabeth Williams used her personal accounts to express her support for the Ebenezer Baptist Church senior pastor.
—Elizabeth Williams (@E_Williams_1) August 4, 2020
Later Tuesday evening, Loeffler responded to the collective action in support of her opponent by accusing WNBA players of being "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," she added, per AJC's Greg Bluestein.
—Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) August 5, 2020
According to reporting from The New York Times' Sopan Deb, 11-time WNBA All-Star and Storm superstar Sue Bird coined the idea for players to publicly support Warnock in this fashion. She and Williams are both players' union executives, though the T-shirts and any other efforts to endorse Loeffler's Democratic foe do not constitute "an official WNBA union-backed effort," per Deb.
According to ESPN's Holly Rowe, WNBA players have held Zoom meetings with Warnock to better understand his platforms and ensure that they were comfortable showing public support for his candidacy.
—Sue Bird (@S10Bird) August 5, 2020
—Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) August 5, 2020
—Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 5, 2020
—Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) August 4, 2020
"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," Williams told The Times.
It's far from the first time 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 and her calls for the WNBA "to remove politics from sports" have prompted players to demand her ouster from the league.
The WNBA and its players have a long history of advocacy. The league has devoted its 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. 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.
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 Dream owner. WNBA representatives did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Read the original article on Insider