Kick Kelly Loeffler Out of WNBA
Updated: Mar 4
It’s time for WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to take action against her league’s racist owner.
Over the weekend, a photograph of a smiling Kelly Loeffler -- who co-owns the Atlanta Dream -- emerged with former Ku Klux Klan leader Chester Doles. Loeffler, a Republican senator who faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in a critical Georgia senate runoff Jan. 5, claims she didn’t know Doles’s identity or history.
Whether her convenient excuse is true or not, and it rings pretty hollow, this is a woman who has developed a lengthy rap sheet in the last six months.
Engelbert now finds herself in a position not all that dissimilar to that of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver six years ago. Back then, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on audio making virulently racist statements. Silver took decisive action right away, winning the respect and admiration of the league’s players, by fining Sterling $2.5 million, forcing him to sell the franchise and banning him for life.
Engelbert needs to follow Silver’s shining example.
Much like the president she enthusiastically supports, Kelly Loeffler is most certainly racist. That much is clear. An individual with her values and beliefs has no place in the WNBA, a league in which 83 percent of the players are women of color and 67 percent of whom are Black.
Loeffler said during her robotic performance in last weekend’s runoff debate that she doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. But how else are we to judge her but by her own words and actions?
Over the summer, in the midst of a wave of police and vigilante killings of unarmed Black men -- including two prominent incidents in Georgia -- Loeffler objected to teams displaying the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” on their uniforms.
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement,” Loeffler wrote to Engelbert in July. A number of current and former WNBA players, at that time, called for Loeffler’s removal from the league, according to an ESPN report.
In response, the entire WNBA took to the court in warm-up shirts emblazoned with, “Vote Warnock,” across the front. It was an unprecedented repudiation of an active team owner by a professional league’s workforce. Undeterred, Loeffler has continued to make her opposition to Black Lives Matter a key part of her platform, as she campaigns against a Black man who she repeatedly calls a radical.
Now, we have this photo. So who is Chester Doles?
Doles is a white supremacist and longtime member of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi National Alliance, according to the Associated Press. In 1993, he was sentenced to prison for beating a Black man, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In 2017, he marched at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., as a member of a racist skinhead gang, the AP reported.
There are problematic owners throughout professional sports, and Loeffler is hardly the only Donald Trump supporter. Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder, to name one glaring example, seems to get away with all manner of unsavory shenanigans.
But the WNBA is a league founded on social justice. Its players, coaches and fans are the epitome of social-justice warriors. Kelly Loeffler’s opinions, statements and actions are beyond the pale. She is offensive in the extreme to the women who serve as her employees.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and the WNBA is a private enterprise. It has the option to pick and choose its ownership. Yes, Kelly Loeffler has deep pockets, and the WNBA isn’t exactly profitable, but her brand is not aligned with the league’s mission.
It’s time for her to go.