Remember in 2018 when Fox News host Laura Ingraham told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble”? That wasn’t the first time someone said athletes should not get involved in politics, and stick to sports. Now, Seattle Storm guard and Olympian Sue Bird is defending her political efforts, telling a national television audience, “our lives are political.”
In recent weeks, Outsports readers have read a lot about the controversial views of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the part-owner of the WNBA Atlanta Dream, and how Bird and other out LGBTQ members of the league have responded to her statements about the Black Lives Matter movement. Several have called for her ouster, which the WNBA said is not going to happen.
Last week, we reported WNBA players wore T-shirts to support the Democratic challenger to Loeffler’s senate seat. Dream forward Elizabeth Williams publicly revealed that the league’s executive committee explored the idea after Loeffler’s remarks, in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne. Williams said Bird originally came up with the protest, and Layshia Clarendon was a driving force behind the movement as well.
On Saturday, Bird appeared on MSNBC to explain why she put together this effort, and to respond to Loeffler’s statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution that, “we need less — not more politics in sports… And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”
Here’s what Bird told MSNBC anchor Joshua Johnson:
“You know, it’s interesting. I think, as a female athlete, and obviously I’m a basketball player, so I could speak more to that, our lives are political. When it comes to the WNBA, especially us specifically, all people talk about is that, you know, we’re gay, or we look too manly, and a lot of times we’ve had to defend ourselves in ways that have nothing to do with basketball,” Bird said.
“And again, I think all of this kind of speaks to where we stand politically, but it’s not even about that, it’s more of a moral issue. So, there’s some irony there, because we’re used to being political. And I feel like she brought that to us,” she said. “But here we are, standing up for something that’s actually a moral issue because a lot of players in our league are Black, 80 percent, Black women. And that’s a group that’s marginalized. And now we have a chance to stand up and continue to say her name.”
Bird went on to talk about Loeffler’s senate race opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, and what happens to her effort if he loses his campaign in November. A representative for Warnock told us last week they’ve seen a significant increase in fundraising, volunteers and social media followers since the T-shirt campaign launched last week.
The Warnock campaign provided this clip of Bird’s interview on MSNBC.
Outsports reached out to the Loeffler campaign for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.