You lose again, Kelly Loeffler. You will not be missed, most certainly not by WNBA players.
On Friday, the WNBA announced that the sale of the Atlanta Dream had been finalized, and that the primary owner is Larry Gottesdiener, founder and chairman of Northland, a Massachusetts-based real estate development company.
The two other members of the ownership group are Suzanne Abair, Northland's president and COO, and ... former Dream player Renee Montgomery.
There is something so satisfying about a Black woman being part of the ownership group, so delicious that it is one of the players Loeffler openly disparaged during her futile campaign to win the U.S. Senate seat she had temporarily held for Georgia. Loeffler expressed disgust that WNBA players were so vocal about demanding recognition of their full humanity (aka "Black lives matter") as she — wait for it — used them as political pawns in her ultimately losing quest to retain that seat.
And now, not only did WNBA players play a significant role in Loeffler losing to Rev. Raphael Warnock, a WNBA player is part of the group that bought the Dream from Loeffler, ending a shameful era in the ascending league's history. It bears repeating what a stroke of genius it was to turn their attention away from rightfully complaining about Loeffler's racist, homophobic stances and toward supporting one of her potential opponents.
Few people had heard of Loeffler before December 2019, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp named her to hold retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat until a special election.
But once she moved into Congress, the woman who once hosted team dinners at her mansion in Atlanta started to spout hateful rhetoric that was antithetical to everything The W and its players stand for. Before her foray into politics, Loeffler portrayed herself as a passionate basketball fan and proud team co-owner in a league where over 80% of players are non-white and many are queer.
As tensions rose in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder last year, her about-face began when she wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert denouncing the players' decision to amplify the Black Lives Matter and "Say Her Name" movements during the "wubble" season. She released a statement in July saying she "adamantly opposed" the Black Lives Matter initiative. She implied on Fox News that Black Americans shouldn't get the same Second Amendment protections all other Americans receive. She publicly supported the anti-LGBTQ Family Policy Alliance. She posed with a known Ku Klux Klan member and neo-Nazi — twice! — as she campaigned against Warnock.
Not to mention the whole insider trading allegation thing.
It all created an incredibly unfortunate (at best) situation, particularly for Dream players. How are you supposed to happily don the uniform of a team when you know one of the owners doesn't believe you're worthy of all the human rights she receives as a wealthy, cis white woman? The WNBA was basically radio silent on Loeffler during all of the ugliness, though it did continually express support for players and never seemed to waver from encouraging them to continue fighting injustice.
With reports that free agents didn't want to sign with Atlanta during the current signing window because of Loeffler, things could have gotten even worse for players currently on the roster, through no fault of their own.
In a conference call with media on Friday, Engelbert made sure to thank players, "particularly the Dream players. They were put in a difficult position. I am proud of the way they handled the situation. They stood for their values with utmost professionalism. They served as role models for advocacy and continue to do that."
The Women's National Basketball Players Association made it crystal clear that it was happy to see Loeffler gone.
"It is our fervent wish that we shall never see again such an abuse of power and arrogant display of privilege," the union said in a statement. "It is our hope that no one will ever again attempt to use the players for individual political gain or favor. Those actions were unbelievably selfish, reckless and dangerous. And those who would conduct themselves in that manner have absolutely no place in our sport. Because this was not our burden to bear or our problem to solve, this is our final statement on the matter."
WNBA players have been fearless in their advocacy, primarily because Black women and queer people historically have had to fight for themselves with no one but themselves in their corner. It was heartening to see how much support players did have in their public tussle with Loeffler, from NBA players to fans to media. A good number of people recognized the right side of history and wanted to be on it.
And now the recently retired Montgomery is making her own history, the first former WNBA player to not only become a team executive but to become a franchise co-owner, wiping Loeffler out of the league for good.
How sweet it is.
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