Earlier this week, the WNBA and WNBPA announced the launch of a new platform, The Justice Movement, and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council.
So honored to be part of the @WNBA and @TheWNBPA's Social Justice Advisory Council. Grateful to continue being a part of this incredible family and support players who have consistently led the charge on justice and equity. #SAYHERNAME #BLACKLIVESMATTER https://t.co/kKWDrIZbRy
— Carolyn DeWitt (@carolyndewitt) July 7, 2020
The collaborative efforts of the League and the Players Association represent an unprecedented and bold new commitment to advancing social justice by the longest-standing U.S. sports league for women, as well as the first labor union for professional women athletes. The mission of the Social Justice Council is to be a driving force of necessary and continuing conversations about race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control amongst other important societal issues.
The League announced on Monday that the 22-game, 2020 season would pop off in late July at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and be centered around the principles of the #Black Lives Matter movement (which contrary to what some believe, has no political connections and is simply about improving the human condition in this country.)
Atlanta Dream Owner Opposes Black Lives Matter
As quick as this monumental moment of progression was announced, certain political forces, such as U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, have objected to the league’s plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement, warning Tuesday that subscribing to “a particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion.”
She’s doing all this as the team owner in probably the Blackest city in the country.
Loeffler is a Republican who owns Atlanta’s WNBA franchise and urged Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to scrap plans for players to wear warmup jerseys reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” and offered the American flag as an alternative logo on all uniforms and apparel.
“In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote,” wrote Loeffler. “And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports
Call it a coincidence, but her team also has the highest number of players opting out of the 2020 season for advocacy reasons (Renee Montgomery, Tiffany Hayes).
Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for far less than what Loeffler's been saying in just the past two weeks https://t.co/jX4Myo19CL
— Martenzie Johnson (@Martenzie) July 7, 2020
Trump Has WNBA Soldiers Too
Loeffler has aligned herself and her political beliefs with Donald Trump, who has lately turned his attention away from the COVID-19 pandemic, in an attempt to ignite his political base by vigorously attacking people of color, lying on Bubba Wallace and championing the Confederate flag.
She’s apparently prepared to spew the same rhetoric, act totally ignorant to race issues, while maintaining an owner-slave corporate mentality. She’s been an outspoken critic of the Black Lives Matter protests demanding social justice, racial equality, and an end to police brutality.
Loeffler’s latest comment isn’t anything new for her and WNBA legends such as Sue Bird, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Natasha Cloud have previously urged the commissioner to sanction Loeffler after she made comments referring to armed Black protesters peacefully gathering near the Rayshard Brooks murder scene as a “mob rule.
We don’t want her.
— Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) July 7, 2020
Social Justice Council Will Combat Oppressive WNBA Ownership
The NFL, NBA, and MLB aren’t the only leagues where some owners don’t want to step into the future or give any credence to the social justice movement in this country. Loeffler is a WNBA owner attempting to marginalize Black players and use oppressive acts to squash any social justice initiative set forth by the WNBA.
The NBA released a statement, but that won’t satisfy all of the offended parties.
But is she still an owner? pic.twitter.com/9lCDScW4GD
— LaChina Robinson (@LaChinaRobinson) July 7, 2020
In its inaugural season, the Social Justice Council will be another tool that players have to combat blatant oppression disguised as politics. The council will cultivate designated spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, and other activations to address this country’s long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities.
With an intentional plan to educate, amplify and mobilize for action, the WNBA and the WNBPA will focus on engaging educators, activists, community and business leaders with players, team and league staff, and fans. With a common goal to build bridges to communities and create sustainable change, the League and the Players Association are committed to continuing this collaborative work at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Official Home of the WNBA 2020 Season.
The work of the Social Justice Council will be led by players like Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, A’ja Wilson and Satou Sabally, among others. Those who have proudly stepped up to champion and advise the players include Alicia Garza (Founder, Black Future Labs, political activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter), Carolyn DeWitt (CEO, Rock the Vote), and Beverly Bond (Founder/CEO, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and Celebrity DJ).
Dressed For The Occasion
The WNBA will begin its season in late July with a weekend of competition centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, during which teams will wear special uniforms to seek justice for the women and girls, including Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and many more who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence.
Throughout the season, players will wear NIKE-branded warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front. Additionally, “Say Her Name” will adorn the back of the shirts. “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.
“We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league’s dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Working together with the WNBPA and the teams, the league aims to highlight players’ social justice efforts throughout the 2020 season and beyond. Systemic change can’t happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society.”
“As many WNBA players–past and present–have said and, more importantly, consistently demonstrated, the reason why you see us engaging and leading the charge when it comes to social advocacy is because it is in our DNA,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike.
“With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world. And may we all recognize that the league’s stated commitment to us – in this season and beyond – offers a pivotal moment in sports history.”
As part of The Justice Movement platform, the WNBA and players will continue to work together to drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change.
Loeffler can huff and puff, but that’s all she can do. She’s a U.S. Senator and a franchise owner, so she’s a powerful woman, but using her power to try and silence the players will backfire. We’ve seen this act before. The WNBA won’t allow a racially intolerant owner in its midst for long. It can’t. There’s just no room for that in the culture anymore.