Now that Georgians have kicked Kelly Loeffler to the curb, the WNBA needs to do the same.
Yes, payback is a large part of the reason, and I’ll get to that. But this is also about business, and the WNBA can no longer ignore the fact that Loeffler is a liability. An even greater one than the Atlanta Dream’s co-owner already was these past few months, given that whatever clout or cachet Loeffler might have brought to the league as a U.S. Senator is now gone.
Even in a pandemic, when Americans’ minds were obviously on other things, the WNBA showed signs of both strength and drawing power last summer. The league got more airtime than ever before, and ratings were up. The players’ social justice work, and the recognition that this has been a focus of theirs for years, won them new fans and prompted others to take a second look.
WNBA players urged people to vote against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia's senate run-off races. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
The WNBA needs to build on that, and Loeffler’s continued ownership stake in the Atlanta Dream will only detract from those efforts. Just look at some of the responses to the Dream’s tweet on Wednesday morning asking all those who are praising WNBA players now to continue showing their support next season.
Good morning – make sure to support our players by watching them play ball at @GatewayArena this summer. They are incredible women on and off the court. pic.twitter.com/hf0Mol3QAU
“Love the team and the players but can’t support you as long @SenatorLoeffler is an owner,” one said.
“Let’s say I wanted to buy some gear for myself and my ladies as a big-time thank you for using your platform and voices in a major way … how much of that money does Kelly see (fingers crossed, `please say 0, please say 0’)?” wrote another.
“I hope the Dream goes to LeBron. Y’all deserve better than Loeffler,” said still another.
Loeffler chose to wage a campaign steeped in both racism and elitism, and it was rejected in historic fashion. The Rev. Raphael Warnock will be the second Black Senator from the South, and only the 11th in the nation’s history.
The toxic effects of Loeffler’s campaign won’t just go away, making her a drag on both the Dream and the WNBA. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert tried to split hairs last summer, saying the league wouldn’t try to force out Loeffler because she wasn’t involved in the team’s day-to-day operations. But that distinction will be lost to the general public.
It’s not the depth of Loeffler’s involvement that’s at issue. It’s that she’s involved, period. There is no amount of distance the WNBA or the Dream can put between themselves and Loeffler that will make people forget they are intertwined.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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