WNBA players have dedicated the 2020 season to social justice, and on Tuesday night, they started their latest action. When arriving to their games, the players were wearing shirts that said "Vote Warnock" in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler for her Georgia senate seat.
Elizabeth Williams of the Dream told ESPN that Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird was the one who came up with the idea. Players from teams across the league have been wearing the shirts, and they are expected to do so for at least the rest of the week.
"I think when all this stuff started happening with her, we didn't want to feel like we were pawns," Williams told ESPN. "We can only control so much about what the league does [in regard to Sen. Loeffler], and so for us, we wanted it to be bigger than that."
Loeffler responded with a statement, saying in part, "It's clear the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June."
Players have been vocal about wanting Loeffler out as co-owner of the Dream since earlier this summer. Bird and others, including Natasha Cloud and Skylar Diggins-Smith, called for her removal on Twitter. The conflict between the Republican senator and the players escalated when Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert decrying the league's decision to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.
The WNBA Players Association immediately responded on Twitter, writing "ENOUGH OUT!" and the Dream players released a statement indicating they would not back down. Eventually, the league sent out a press release, saying that Loeffler is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the team, but did not force her to sell her share of the team.
With Loeffler still in position as co-owner of the Dream, the players have instead turned their attention to removing her from her other position in the senate.
"We want people in office who support the same values and morals as we do," New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon told ESPN. Rev. Warnock is pro criminal justice reform, for LGBT+ rights, and pro choice/reproductive rights. Those are the kind of people we want representing us, because that's what our league stands for."