Remember when sports wasn’t political?
You might not for long.
Case in point:
GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler isn’t much for Black Lives Matter. And that’s particularly of note since she’s co-owner of WNBA team the Atlanta Dream. As athletic franchises and leagues eye endorsing BLM (such as here), Kelly’s making it clear: She’d rather see a more universal message.
The WNBA, if you hadn’t heard, has approved featuring “Black Lives Matter” on courts as well as the backs of players’ warm-up shirts.
It’s been pointed out before, but it bears repeating: The three-word phrase can reference two very different things — the notion that the lives of black Americans have value, or the organization Black Lives Matter™.
Black Lives Matter proper intends to put “black trans women” in positions of leadership — and also to “build a space…free from…environments in which men are centered.”
Furthermore, members want to liberate themselves “from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking…”
Perhaps most controversially, BLM.com touts “distrupt[ing] the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another…”
Plus, there’s the matter of Marx:
Black Lives Matter movement founder: "We are trained Marxists."pic.twitter.com/bG7QENIM98
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) June 22, 2020
As relayed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sen. Kelly expressed her BLM opposition in a Tuesday letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert:
When I purchased a stake in the Atlanta Dream nearly a decade ago, it really was a dream come true for me. Sports are such a powerful, dynamic force in uniting communities across our great country. People from all walks of life are unified by a team, a game, a championship. Everyone wears the same uniform – even when they don’t share the same political views.
I appreciate your hard work as the WNBA Commissioner, especially during these challenging moments, but I was incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league.
Kelly wants to see inclusion:
Players, coaches, and yes – team owners – share differing opinions on many issues. All of us have a constitutional right to hold and to express our views. But to subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.
The truth is, we need less—not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote. And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.
Here comes the resistance:
The lives of each and every African American matter, and there’s no debating the fact that there is no place for racism in our country. However, I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country. I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.
Amid the recent unrest in many American cities, this movement advocated the creation of lawless autonomous zones in places like Atlanta. I denounced these zones of violence—for which I have been criticized. However, this same group fell silent over the fourth of July weekend when an 8-year-old girl was murdered under the “mob rule” that I warned about days earlier. This is not a political movement that the league should be embracing, and I emphatically oppose it.
She has an alternate suggestion:
Though I was not consulted about—nor do I agree with the League’s decision in this matter, I am proposing a common-sense recommendation to ensure we reflect the values of freedom and equality for all. I believe we should put an American flag on every jersey. Include it in our licensed apparel for players, coaches and fans.
The senator believes it’s time for unity:
As our nation battles COVID-19, economic hardship, and the fight to ensure justice for all, we need a unifying rallying point for the American people. I sincerely hope you will consider my proposal. Because if we can’t acknowledge, much less unite behind our flag during this struggle, we’ll never achieve the goals we all want for each other.
Our flag has weathered countless storms, wars, and civil unrest. It symbolizes the strengths unique to our country and the American people. It stands for freedom, equality and hope. This important symbol will unite us as we work toward a better, brighter, and more equitable tomorrow.
Some people aren’t happy about Kelly’s position. In fact, as per The Daily Wire, they’re outraged:
As ESPN reported, Loeffler’s letter elicited outrage from WNBA players, including former Dream member and current New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon, who tweeted, “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.”
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 🤬👀 https://t.co/97jTbmuHda
— Layshia Clarendon (@Layshiac) July 7, 2020
More from ESPN:
A number of current and former WNBA players, including Sheryl Swoopes, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Natasha Cloud, Alysha Clark and Sue Bird, have asked Engelbert to remove Loeffler as co-owner of the Dream. Swoopes tweeted that the “WNBA MUST do better.”
And there was this, from the players’ union:
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2020
It seems to me we’re in a terrifically terrible spot when we can’t even be unified on what makes us unified.
And we’re separated on what keeps us separated.
“WNBA” seems to represent this whole place as of late: We’re Not Being America.
How do we again become One Nation under One Flag?
Even in basketball, we’ve got our work cut out for us: Divisiveness is running a full-court press.
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