Kelly Loeffler is doubling down on her stance against the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a new interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne, the embattled co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, and junior Republican senator from Georgia, says she thinks the WNBA embracing Black Lives Matter could cause some fans to stop watching the league.
Much like the NBA, the WNBA has painted “Black Lives Matter” on its courts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“I think a lot of people feel that they may not have a place,” Loeffler said. “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.
“The statement, ‘Black lives matter,’ is very different than the organization Black Lives Matter. I think we all agree the life of every African American is important. There’s no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there’s a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment.”
In recent weeks, numerous WNBA stars have called on Loeffler to sell her ownership stake in the Dream, including Sue Bird and Natasha Cloud. Earlier this month, the Dream defied Loeffler with a tweet supporting Black Lives Matter.
The fervor over Loeffler’s involvement with the Dream reached an apex following her public condemnation of armed Black protesters in Atlanta, who were protesting the killing of Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed Black man who was killed by police after falling asleep in a Wendy’s drive-through. Loeffler said the protesters were practicing “mob rule,” even though the demonstrations were peaceful, and Georgia is an open-carry state.
Following those remarks, Loeffler penned a public letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert expressing her disagreement with the league’s embrace of Black Lives Matter. “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,” she wrote.
After Loeffler’s letter was publicized, gender nonconforming All-Star Layshia Clarendon tweeted she “can’t believe” she once ate dinner in Loeffler’s house.
Out Las Vegas Aces player Angel McCoughtry, who played for the Dream for 10 seasons, originally tweeted support for Loeffler in April. But in a recent interview with ESPN, McCoughtry said she thinks Loeffler is using the WNBA as a political platform. (McCoughtry was also a guest on the latest episode of Swish Appeal’s “The Hard Screen.”)
“As far as Kelly is concerned, I think that right now, she has not reflected what the Dream logo stands for,” McCoughtry said. “If she really did have [problems] with LGBTQ or Black Lives Matter, I don’t think she would have had us players in her home.”
Loeffler is a candidate in a special election in Georgia Nov. 3, where she’s battling to keep her senate seat against hard right-winger Rep. Doug Collins, who’s emerged as one of President Donald Trump’s most vociferous defenders in Congress. Trump hasn’t endorsed either candidate.
Loeffler’s remarks about the WNBA driving away fans with its support for racial justice causes don’t appear to be based in reality, given the league’s historical support of social movements. The WNBA is commonly regarded as the most progressive major pro sports league in the U.S., with its wide array of openly LGBTQ players and social justice advocates.
There’s also the fact that 63 percent of Americans support Black Lives Matter, according to an ABC News and Washington Post poll.
Last week, Englebert said she won’t force Loeffler to sell her stake in the Dream, though she acknowledged there would be interest in buying Loeffler out. Loeffler, who joined the Dream’s ownership in 2011, says she has no intention of leaving the WNBA.
“They can’t push me out for my views,” Loeffler said. “I intend to own the team. I am not going.”