During the game played on August 4 between Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury, two teams of the WNBA, the US women’s basketball league, some players wore a shirt with the words “Vote Warnock”. Black pastor Raphael Warnock is one of the Democratic Senate candidates for Georgia, and is the main rival in the upcoming November election of the owner of the Atlanta Dream, the Republican senator. Kelly Loeffler. About a month ago, in fact, Loeffler had criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and the support of some of the team’s players in the protests against racism, causing several protests.
The Atlanta Dream team was founded in 2007 and since 2011 has been owned by Dream Too LLC, a company of Senator Loeffler and Mary Brock, a very active philanthropist in the Atlanta community. The start of the WNBA championship was scheduled for May 15, but was postponed to July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
– Also read: The American protests continue
Already last month, Loeffler he had criticized the initiative of the WNBA league to promote the Black Lives Matter movement during the championship, believing that the decision would send a “message of exclusion” as part of “a specific political strategy” that “it encourages violence and aims to destroy the traditional family and order in the country». Elizabeth Williams, Atlanta player, explained to ESPN that she and her teammates, mostly African Americans, had thought the most effective way to respond to Loeffler was to openly support a candidate who reflected their vision: Pastor Warnock in the upcoming Senate election.
Already after the declarations in July, some WNBA players had asked that Loeffler be removed from the league. Loeffler had said he did not intend to back down or sell his shares in the company, as a source reported by theAthletic.
– Also read: Messages written by NBA players on their jerseys
The participation of the Atlanta Dreams in the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement is not an isolated case in American basketball: in recent days there have been several demonstrations of support also in the men’s league, the NBA, which has recently resumed the championship after the suspension for the coronavirus epidemic. Before the games began, during the American anthem, almost every player in the NBA knelt down and some, like LeBron James, even threw a fist to the sky.
Prior to this year, Loeffler, who is a 49-year-old white businesswoman and a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, had no political experience. She was chosen by Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia, to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, who resigned on December 31, 2019. Loeffler holds the position of senator provisionally, pending the election on November 3.
In Georgia le protests against racism have been quite intense, particularly since last May, after the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American who was killed by two white men while jogging near his home, not far from Brunswick, a town in southern Georgia.
Georgia is a traditionally conservative state, ruled by the Republicans since 2002. According to some polls made ahead of the November elections, however, Democratic candidate Joe Biden would have an advantage over Donald Trump.