Did women basketball players kick off Raphael Warnock’s winning Senate campaign in Georgia?

Elizabeth Williams's tweet showing her support for Warnock

Elizabeth Williams’s tweet showing her support for WarnockPhoto: Screenshot/Twitter

Writer Jemele Hill has kicked off a conversation on social media that has everyone talking.

Hill pointed out that Senator-elect Raphael Warnock (D), who won his special election to be the next U.S. senator from Georgia yesterday, was polling poorly until WNBA players endorsed his campaign. Warnock’s opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), is a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream team.

Related: Georgia voters just gave one last middle finger to Donald Trump

“I don’t know who needs to hear this but Reverend Raphael Warnock was polling at 9% when the Atlanta Dream and WNBA players threw their full support behind him and elevated his national profile. Now he’s Georgia’s first black Senator,” she tweeted.

Loeffler came under fire earlier this year for comments she made about the Black Lives Matter movement. She said, among other things, that the anti-racist movement “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.”

Several Dream players wore “Vote Warnock” T-shirts ahead of a game against the Phoenix Mercury. Two Mercury players also wore “Vote Warnock” or “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts.

Dream player Elizabeth Williams told ESPN that the plan for the T-shirts came because “for effective change to happen, there has to be policy changes.”

“If we’re going to sit here and talk about wanting justice reform, part of that is making sure that we have officials in office that understand that,” she said.

The WNBA has dedicated this year’s season to Black Lives Matter. Other teams, like the Seattle Storm, also joined the protest, wearing shirts during the season that said “Vote Warnock.”

Sen. Loeffler sent a letter last month to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert complaining about the decision, saying that the league needs to respect the sensibilities of people who don’t “share the same political views” as the anti-racist movement. The letter also stressed that she owns part of a WNBA team.

Williams told the New York Times that it was Sue Bird, a basketball player who has won three WNBA championships with the Seattle Storm, who came up with the idea to endorse Loeffler’s opponent in the Senate race. Bird is the partner of Megan Rapinoe, the captain who led the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team to victory at the Women’s World Cup in France last year.

They had the T-shirts made and debuted them last night because the game was going to be broadcast on ESPN 2, and the players plan to wear the T-shirts at future games.

“We can’t really do anything about [Loeffler’s] ownership,” Williams said. “That’s not something we can control. We can control who we vote for.”

While folks gave the basketball players their due, several people highlighted how important Black women were in the special election that decided control of the Senate. From Stacy Abrams’ nonstop push to turn the state blue to the many on-the-ground organizers who made sure Democrats were registered and voted, Black women did the hard work to make sure the GOP didn’t control the chamber.


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