Unrest in WNBA: Players take on owner who isn't supporting Black Lives Matter
It's been a rough six months for Kelly Loeffler, a U.S. senator from the state of Georgia.
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Loeffler was accused of insider trading: making personally beneficial coronavirus-related stock trades in the weeks prior to the American public's greater understanding of the virus and its seriousness.
In late May, the Department of Justice dropped that investigation into Loeffler and various other United States senators, including Dianne Feinstein of California.
Now, Loeffler, who is also part owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, has gotten herself into more hot water. This time for comments she has made about the Black Lives Matter movement and a letter she sent to the commissioner of the WNBA about her opposition of the league's support of the movement.
Earlier this week, the WNBA announced that the league would dedicate its 2020 season to social justice reform and that "Black Lives Matter" will be displayed on courts during games as well as on warm-up shirts worn by the players.
Loeffler has stated that she believes that Black Lives Matter is a divisive political movement and that there is no room for politics in sports. She believes an American flag should be worn by the players rather than a Black Lives Matter logo.
"Players, coaches and yes, team owners, share differing opinions on many issues," Loeffler wrote in her letter to the WNBA. "All of us have a constitutional right to hold and express our views. But to subscribe to a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion."
The WNBA Players Association tweeted on Tuesday, with a link to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story about Loeffler's letter to the commissioner, the message: E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!
Many WNBA players are calling for Loeffler to leave the league, insinuating that her lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement is racist and tone deaf for a league in which 70 percent of the players are black.
Breanna Stewart, the WNBA's most valuable player in 2018, tweeted on Tuesday, "How is she still an owner? Bye Kelly. Keep that negative energy out of our league."
When Loeffler was accused of insider trading, former Atlanta Dream star Angel McCoughtry, who was traded to Las Vegas over the off-season, defended Loeffer.
"I love Kelly Loeffler," McCoughtry said after the insider trading accusations. "She has done nothing but give, give, give!! She has helped us women continue to maintain a job even when she had made nothing in return. Kelly has always had my back when I needed her, and she would have yours too. I will never judge a person on their political views. That's what makes the world unique. We get so caught up on what's going wrong. I remember the million things Kelly has done right."
But when news of Loeffler's BLM letter circulated, McCoughtry had a vastly different opinion on Loeffler.
"I'm just shocked," McCoughtry said. "She's always been a supporter of women and who we are but now of course things have changed.
"Are you against racism, or not? Because the movement stands against racism. That is what it stands for. It is a movement."
Ironically, that is exactly what Loeffler is arguing against, the idea that the Black Lives Matter Movement is against racism.
Loeffler explained her position on Thursday night in a live interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News, saying that Black Lives Matter "is an organization based on Marxist principles that this week threatened to burn the system down literally and figuratively if they don't get what they want. This is a organization that seeks to destroy American principles."
Loeffler said that she felt the need to speak out for those who disagree with the movement.
"There's no room in this country for racism, but this isn't what the Black Lives Matter political organization is about," Loeffler told Ingraham. "They want to abolish the police completely within five years. And we can see what's happening across the country with this threat of defunding the police, which this BLM organization is leading the charge. You've seen anarchy and riots, you've seen murders. I felt like I had to speak out and make sure that people understand that this organization is divisive in its goals. It's anti-Semitic, it doesn't support the nuclear family. This is what we need to understand and what can unite us is the flag."
I checked the Black Lives Matter website and read its mission statement, and there are good ideas about putting a greater emphasis on education and health care and housing and criminal justice reform and, of course, ending police brutality.
But there is also a strong emphasis on defunding the police because, according to Kailee Scales, managing director of BLM, the police "is a system built on harming Black people."
Yet, the police chiefs and mayors of many of America's largest cities are Black, and in Chicago, for example, 21 percent of the force is Black.
The BLM website also says, "We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and "villages" that collectively care for one another."
While hoping for a "it takes a village" mentality of care-giving throughout a community seems like a helpful, wholesome idea, many are wondering why that has to come at the expense of the nuclear family, especially when many in the Black community have been calling for years for the need for active and present fathers in the family.
So maybe we can leave it at this: both BLM and Loeffler seem to have some good points and valid concerns, points and concerns that deserve to be heard.
And maybe that's what we need to get back to in America: understanding that different ideas and different opinions and different voices are OK. If we are respectful to each other and our country as we express them, that would go a long way.
• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw