WNBA players are sending a resounding message to Atlanta Dream co-owner and Republican U.S. senator Kelly Loeffler, who is a critic of the league's Black Lives Matter initiatives.
The athletes made a powerful statement by wearing “Vote Warnock” t-shirts to their games this week, showing support for the Democrat who is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat representing Georgia.
According to ESPN, the athletes said they are supporting Rev. Raphael Warnock because he represents their views when it comes to social justice.
“We wanted to make sure we could still keep the focus on our social justice movement, and, funny enough, Rev. Warnock is somebody who supports everything that we support and just happens to be running in that seat,” Elizabeth Williams, a forward on the Atlanta Dream, told ESPN. “So it just worked out really well.”
Loeffler recently wrote a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, opposing the league's decision to write "Black lives matter" on game courts and promote social justice.
These #VoteWarnock shirts being worn by @WNBA players are 🔥!— Jason Esteves (@jasonesteves) August 4, 2020
The rest of the country is seeing what many of us feel here in Georgia.
Stand with @ReverendWarnock because he fights for you!#gapol pic.twitter.com/uFGZ9uvZ4m
vote warnock pic.twitter.com/y1jodNlNkX— WNBA Bubble Life (@WNBABubbleLife) August 4, 2020
"I think when all this stuff started happening with her, we didn't want to feel like we were pawns," Williams said. "We can only control so much about what the league does [in regard to Loeffler], and so for us, we wanted it to be bigger than that."
The idea for the shirts came from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.
"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," Bird said.
Warnock released a statement on Tuesday, saying he was "honored and humbled by the overwhelming support from the WNBA players."
"This movement gives us the opportunity to fight for what we believe in, and I stand by all athletes promoting social justice on and off the court," the Democratic candidate said.
Loeffler believes the league's support for the Black Lives Matter movement will turn some fans away.
"I think a lot of people feel that they may not have a place," the conservative told ESPN. "They may feel excluded from this sport and other sports that make them feel like American values aren't at the core of what we're doing here."
She said the Black Lives Matter organization is ill-intended.
"The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family," Loeffler said. "It promotes violence and anti-Semitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for."