In a show of support to Raphael Warnock, a Democratic challenger for Kelly Loeffler’s (R) Senate seat in Georgia, players across the WNBA donned T-shirts that read “Vote Warnock” Tuesday afternoon.
Loeffler, who owns a partial share in the Atlanta Dream and was officially appointed the junior United States Senator from Georgia by Governor Brian Kemp in January, penned a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert in July voicing opposition to the league’s plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement throughout its season. Her seat is up for grabs in a special election set to be held Nov. 3.
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Here’s a look at the Sky, who sported the shirts both in advance of and following the team’s fifth game of the season, an 82-79 victory over the Dallas Wings.
Don't boo...VOTE 🗳— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) August 4, 2020
Register to vote at https://t.co/zXnPqmFZQ7 #Vote2020 pic.twitter.com/4yMmEqgXMS
“It’s very clear, we’re an incredible league that has always been very vocal,” Courtney Vandersloot said in a Zoom conference after the game. “We have 80 percent Black women who are absolutely amazing and if you feel so strongly about them, why are you even associated with the WNBA? That part I don’t understand. We don’t need you. And that’s that.”
Dream forward Elizabeth Williams personally tweeted out her support for Warnock.
We are @wnba players, but like the late, great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. @ReverendWarnock has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington. Join the movement for a better Georgia at https://t.co/hC8iF9urak pic.twitter.com/mvN5e9m4oO— Elizabeth Williams (@E_Williams_1) August 4, 2020
After Loeffler’s letter to Engelbert, players across the league were swift and universal in condemning her; in a tweet, the WNBPA joined its constituents by publicly calling for Loeffler to vacate her post with the Dream. The WNBA then said in a statement that Loeffler was “no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team” and hadn’t served as the Dream’s Governor since October 2019.
E-N-O-U-G-H!— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
Loeffler doubled down on her opposition to Black Lives Matter in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in late July, saying she has no intention of selling her stake in the Dream. She tripled down Tuesday in a statement:
Loeffler is not happy about WNBA players wearing "Vote Warnock" t-shirts...#GASen pic.twitter.com/IJCOGLQES3— Niles Edward Francis (@NilesGApol) August 5, 2020
But a league notorious for leading the charge in athlete advocacy on issues of social justice presented a unified front Tuesday.
“It was important to me (to wear the shirt) because my teammates wanted me to wear it,” Cheyenne Parker said in her postgame Zoom availability, though she added that she isn’t fully acquainted with Warnock’s politics. “The whole point in us wearing this is to try to get the partial owner of Atlanta out of office. That was the whole point.
“Obviously I support that because she doesn’t stand for what this league stands for. So whatever it takes to get her displaced and removed, I’m willing to participate in it. I don’t know much about Warnock, but I wore the shirt for my team.”