WNBA Players Wear Shirts Supporting Raphael Warnock Against Kelly LoefflerAugust 4, 2020
Players across the WNBA are continuing to push back against criticism from Georgia senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler over the league's support of Black Lives Matter.
Beginning Tuesday, players from the Dream, Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky were seen sporting black t-shirts with the phrase "Vote Warnock":
Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock is currently running for Loeffler's seat in a special election on the November 3rd ballot.
Dream forward Elizabeth Williams told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the decision to raise awareness for Loeffler's opponent came after the senator's letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert targeted the inclusion Black Lives Matter messaging across the sport.
"For effective change to happen, there has to be policy changes," Williams said. "And so if we're going to sit here and talk about wanting justice reform, part of that is making sure that we have officials in office that understand that."
In an interview with Shelburne in July, Loeffler expressed concern that the league's support of Black Lives Matter would "drive some fans away." In her letter to Engelbert, Loeffler wrote, "I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement ... I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA."
Greg Bluestein @bluestein
.@SenatorLoeffler responds: “This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June.” #gapol #gasen https://t.co/AYJdfTia6N
Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, who helped lead the movement to create the shirts, told Shelburne participation is voluntary:
"This was a situation where given what was said in regards to the owner of Atlanta, and how, basically, she came out against a lot of what the women in our league stand for, I think was emotionally tough for a lot of the women in our league to hear that. But very quickly we started to realize that this was only happening for her political gain. This was something that she wanted. And the more noise we made, whether it was a tweet saying to get her out, that was just playing into her hands.
"I'm not some political strategist, but what I do know is that voting is important. And I think our league has always encouraged people to use their voices and to get out and vote.
"So, what a great way for us to get the word out about this man, and hopefully put him in Senate. And, if he's in Senate, you know who's not. And I'll just leave it at that."
According to Sopan Deb of the New York Times, the shirts were not an official WNBPA decision, however, multiple union leaders were involved in the decision. Deb also reported the union consulted on the idea with voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who serves on a WNBPA advisory board.