WNBA
Graham Hays, ESPN.com 34d

Atlanta Dream players stand against Sen. Kelly Loeffler's criticism of BLM movement

WNBA, Atlanta Dream

On the same day that Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) declared she had no intention of selling her ownership share in the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, the team's official Twitter account shared a message from players collectively repudiating her criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Written in their own voice, a Friday evening tweet that included the signatures of 13 players states, "Our team is united in the Movement for Black Lives. It is not extreme to demand change after centuries of inequality. This is not a political statement. This is a statement of humanity."

The signees included all 12 players currently in Bradenton, Florida, where the WNBA will soon begin play in a self-described bubble at the IMG Academy, as well as veteran guard Renee Montgomery, who last month opted out of the season in order to focus on social justice issues.

Montgomery penned an open letter to Loeffler on Friday as well.

"I kindly invite you to rethink your stance and join a discussion with me," Montgomery wrote. "While you might very well be on the 'right' side of this November's elections, you are on the wrong side of history if you can't see that Black Lives Matter."

Earlier Friday, in an editorial published on the Daily Caller website, Loeffler reiterated many of the criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement that she had made throughout the week in tweets, television appearances and a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

In that letter, Loeffler, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump who was appointed to the Senate last December and is on the ballot this fall, expressed her opposition to league initiatives in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Those initiatives include displaying "Black Lives Matter" on the court in Florida and honoring women who have died in connection with police action or alleged racial violence.

Expressing her opposition to the "politicization of sports" in the editorial, she again advocated for placing an American flag on each jersey.

Responding to calls for her to sell her interest in the Dream, including from many WNBA players and their union, Loeffler indicated in the editorial that she will not do so.

"But this is America and I'm not going to bow down to the woke mob," Loeffler wrote. "I'm not going to give up on the team because of my personal or political views."

The statement from Dream players did not call for Loeffler or the league to take any specific action.

On Saturday, Dream coach Nicki Collen called the team's position in regards to Loeffler a "unique challenge" and said "it certainly hasn't been a lot of fun," though she does feel the message brought the players closer together.

"As they saw their counterparts on other teams be very demonstrative about this situation [they were] trying to figure out the right way to both support the organization but also have their voices heard," Collen said of her players. "They didn't want to sit back and look like they didn't care, but they also wanted to say it, I think, in a way, quite frankly, that shows how classy they are."

Earlier in the week, the league issued a statement saying: "The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team."

Dream player Elizabeth Williams followed up the post from the team's official account by tweeting the same message and adding, "We've read the letter. We reject the letter."

"At the end of the day, it's up to the league to decide what to do," Williams said Saturday. "For us, we felt it was important to put out the statement. So I kind of leave the rest up to the league. And we're just gonna focus on basketball. Focus on moving forward and continuing to have this huge social justice platform in the bubble."

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