When you're the WNBA, any publicity -- any at all -- is good publicity, I suppose. Quite honestly, I've heard and thought more about that league within the past few weeks than I had in the last 15 years combined. Why? Two social justice/political stunts. First, a matchup of WNBA teams effectively boycotted the national anthem altogether, walking off the floor prior to its performance. This was spun as a "respectful" gesture, but that's a real stretch. And now we have players from various league franchises (I had to look up their nicknames) wearing t-shirts endorsing one of the potential Democratic opponents of GOP US Senator Kelly Loeffler...who co-owns the WNBA's Atlanta team. This stunning and brave statement on behalf of 'progress' could sway literally tens of voters:
WNBA players are wearing "Vote Warnock" shirts today.— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) August 4, 2020
Raphael Warnock is running against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, who opposes the Black Lives Matter movement.
(via @PhoenixMercury, @chicagosky) pic.twitter.com/YvB5e9PIq5
It's neither stunning nor brave, of course. The WNBA's performative wokeness surpasses all other pro sports leagues, catering to its fractional fan base. We'll see if this little boomlet lasts. And even if her own team's players get in on this action (update: they have), they'll continue to cash paychecks from the franchise, knowing full well that any attempted retaliatory action from Loeffler would only fuel the controversy and give them the attention they crave -- with an appealing 'martyr' twist, to boot. Here's some background on the bubbling feud:
Loeffler, a Republican, currently holds a seat in the U.S. Senate representing Georgia. She has come under fire for calling on WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelber to put a stop to the league's Black Lives Matter initiative in which players wore warm-up jerseys and shirts supporting the movement. Many players, along with with WNBA Players Association, have called on Loeffler to step down from her position as Atlanta Dream co-owner. Loeffler issued a statement reiterating her stance against players wearing apparel supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. "This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them," Loeffler said. "It's clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball."
The players have every right to support preferred candidates for office, just as Sen. Loeffler (who was cleared on this matter, incidentally) has every right to oppose politicizing sports the way she has. And as we've explored previously, BLM as an organization is really quite radical. The players should say what they want, and Loeffler shouldn't be pressured into stepping away from her ownership role over a disagreement. The Senator, sensing a political opportunity, is leaning into the battle:
Not a bad statement, all things considered. She might also want to see if her would-be Democratic opponents might take the bait on all of this. Do they support boycotting the national anthem, as some WNBA teams have done this season? Do they believe people should be ostracized for agreeing with Loeffler's June comments (above) concerning the flag, racism, BLM and unity? Georgia remains a pretty culturally conservative place. The fight for control of the US Senate has extremely high stakes this year -- and the balance of power could well come down to a pair of races in Georgia. As for the politics of this confrontation, Allahpundit writes Loeffler's campaign must be "ecstatic." There's also this intriguing possibility:
Raphael Warnock, the subject of the players’ t-shirt endorsement, isn’t even the top polling Democrat in the race. He’s fourth in single digits despite being the party’s preferred candidate this year. That’s no fluke, either. Other polls show Warnock struggling to gain traction and routinely trailing fellow Dem Matt Lieberman by a few points. State and national party leaders think he has the most upside in the field, as he could conceivably rebuild the black and progressive coalition that nearly made Stacey Abrams governor in 2018. (Abrams has endorsed Warnock, as have a slew of Democratic senators.) But he’s not catching on so far. Maybe once Abrams and the other famous names who’ve backed him hit the trail for him, it’ll turn around. But right now there’s at least some chance that he, Lieberman, and less popular Dem candidates will split the lefty vote and propel Loeffler and Collins to an all-Republican runoff later this year.
The players are boosting a candidate who isn't a clear frontrunner on the Democratic side, which could actually redound to the GOP's benefit overall, thanks to Georgia's runoff system. Thanks a bunch, gals, Loeffler must be thinking at the moment. I'll leave you with one guess as to who was partially behind this latest political act from the WNBA. Clue: She has lots of time on her hands these days.