The WNBA is no stranger to issues of social justice.
Tuesday, the organization distanced itself from Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, following her objection to the WNBA’s plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.
“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,” the league said in a statement.
Loeffler is facing scrutiny in part because of a letter she wrote, obtained by CNN and first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ESPN, that warned the WNBA that “to subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
Loeffler co-owns the Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA franchise, and is the wealthiest member of the Senate. Earlier this year, Loeffler came under fire for stock trades made before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the economy.
The WNBA intentionally distanced itself from the senator Tuesday, saying, “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.”
When asked for comment, a Dream spokesperson sent CNN a statement saying, “The Atlanta Dream is not a political entity — we are in the business of sports and entertainment. The Dream players and staff are focused on building a successful team on the court, winning games and creating a second-to-none fan experience.”
Loeffler’s letter came after the WNBA announced its plan to display “Black Lives Matter” prominently on its basketball courts. The league’s players also plan to wear warmup shirts with the words “Black Lives Matter” displayed on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back, alongside Breonna Taylor’s name.
Former Atlanta Dream and University of Louisville player Angel McCoughtry spearheaded the campaign.
In her letter, Loeffler urged WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to cancel these plans, instead putting American flags on all uniforms and apparel. Loeffler, a staunch Trump supporter, is facing an intense reelection campaign against fellow Republican Doug Collins this November.
Former players and members of the WNBA Players Association immediately called for Loeffler’s removal.
Layshia Clarendon, a former Atlanta Dream player and member of the league’s newly created Social Justice Council, shared her disgust with Loeffler on Twitter, writing, “I can’t believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly’s house and shared a meal with her. It’s actually really hurtful to see her true colors. I had no idea while I played for ATL she felt this way. Happy to own us as long as we stay quiet and perform.”
Loeffler’s office did not respond to CNN at the time of this article’s publication. Tuesday afternoon, though, she tweeted: “@WNBA should stand for and unite around the American Flag — not divisive political movements like BLM that unapologetically seek to defund the police.”
The WNBA is planning for a 22-game regular season to start in late July.