On July 10, all 13 players of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream issued a statement via Twitter expressing their solidarity with the widespread racial and social justice actions taking place in the United States.
“We are the women of the Atlanta Dream. We are women who support a movement. We are strong and we are fearless,” read the communication. “We offer a voice to the voiceless. Our team is united in the movement for Black Lives Matter. It is not extreme to demand change after centuries of inequality. This is not a political statement. This is a statement of humanity. Black lives matter.”
The players’ words embodied the essence of the most fluid, uncertain and resilient year in the history of American sports. A year in which protests and the global COVID-19 pandemic painfully altered humankind and framed the sports narrative.
The women of the Dream composed their declaration in response to written remarks by Kelly Loeffler, a co-owner of the franchise and a U.S. junior senator from Georgia. Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert that was published in the Atlanta Constitution Journal on July 7, criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement,” proclaimed Loeffler. “I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.
“…The truth is, we need less, not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote. And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”
While Loeffler, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, who is fighting to hold her seat and will face Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock in a special runoff election Jan. 5, was deriding the movement, prominent voices such as LeBron James leveraged his vast platform and influence by co-founding the voting rights group More Than a Vote.
The organization, comprising leading athletes and artists, notes on its website, “Our priority right now is combating systemic, racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting our community in 2020.” As James fought for voting rights and was at the forefront of NBA players’ social and racial justice activism, unwavering in speaking out against the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake by police officers, he also simultaneously carried the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship.
When the NBA suspended its season on March 11 due to COVID-19, it prompted a halt in play of the other major professional sports leagues, as well as a pause of many colleges and universities sports programs. The economic fallout was substantial and upended the lives of a multitude of people whose livelihood was directly tied to professional and so-called amateur sports.
The NBA resumed July 30 in a contained environment commonly referred to as a bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. It was there that James won his fourth league title, furthering his legacy on the court and establishing himself as a force on America’s political landscape.