The WNBA has long been a league disrespected, pushed aside, and mocked by the majority of sports fans. So it should be no surprise that it has become a part of its players DNA to fight for their beliefs.
Those beliefs can vary in importance and volume, but one thing is for sure, WNBA players will speak out and be at the forefront of them all.
Before Colin Kaepernick kneeled, the Minnesota Lynx took on the police for Philando Castillo. Maya Moore paused her hall of fame career to free an innocent black man from a 50 year jail sentence. Skylar Diggins-Smith has been at the forefront of the fight for equal pay.
Most recently, WNBA players have spoken out against two issues: Kelly Loeffler, the Atlanta Dream owner, who opposes the WNBA supporting Black Lives Matter, and the living conditions in the WNBA bubble.
Kelly Loeffler’s Comments
The WNBA is dedicating the season to the victims of police brutality, and the BLM movement.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, has written WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to express her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Loeffler was angry with the WNBA approving the initiative, including Black Lives Matter printed on the courts, and teams wearing “Say Her Name,” “Breonna Taylor” warmups and jerseys.
Loeffler, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, wrote,
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country. I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
She told WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert that she was “incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league,” adding, “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.”
Loeffler also has a past of supporting anti-LGBTQ groups.
Loeffler’s beliefs could not be more opposite than the players, league, and sports world.
WNBA Players Respond
A number of current and former WNBA players, including Sheryl Swoopes, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Natasha Cloud, Alysha Clark and Sue Bird, have asked Commissioner Engelbert to remove Loeffler as co-owner of the Dream.
Swoopes tweeted that the “WNBA MUST do better.”
New York Liberty player Layshia Clarendon, who used to play for the Dream, tweeted, “I can’t believe I ever stepped foot in Kelly’s house and shared a meal with her. It’s actually really hurtful to see her true colors I had no idea while I played for ATL she felt this way. Happy to own us as long as we stay quiet and perform.”
Clarendon told ABC News Live
“That’s what we see so often with sports, with culture, with music is that you’re OK with Black people as long as they kind of stay in their place or they’re performing or they’re sports stars.
Clarendon continued “So now that we’re kind of taking our power back and asking for, you know, better placing in communities, we’re asking for more resources to be poured in, I think it is uncomfortable. You know, it’s really sad to see … like, as angry as I am, I’m really hurt because, particularly for a woman to do that as well, just kind of cuts the knife in a little bit deeper, and for sure, for her to be so divisive, I think it’s really tough, and as a Black woman, as a queer woman playing in sports, you know, my existence is political like sport is, and so I think it was funny to ask the flag as well.”
Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks gave her thoughts on twitter.
“Kelly Loeffler should not have the honor of being affiliated with the WNBA. She needs to be immediately removed as co owner of the Atlanta Dream. She cannot ‘oppose’ the fact that black lives matter. Equal rights is not a political statement. No more Kelly Loeffler.”
The WNBA issued a statement Tuesday saying,
“The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.”
WNBA Bubble Conditions
The majority of the WNBA arrived at IMG Academy in Florida on Monday afternoon. What they found when they arrived to their new home was far from luxurious.
A video of a laundry room made its way through Twitter and it almost didn’t seem real. The laundry room featured filthy floors, a mouse trap atop a two-by-four screwed into the wall and supplies littered about. And that isn’t even the worst of the conditions.
Two teams needed to be moved after finding bed bugs in their living quarters at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Seattle Storm star and former MVP Breanna Stewart shared on her Instagram story a picture showing what she said are bug traps between the mattress and box spring.
Another video was posted to Twitter that showed a worm making its way across a hotel room floor.
Reaction to the Conditions
As expected, the reaction from athletes was swift.
NBA stars Damian Lillard and Ja Morant chimed in on Twitter, calling out the disgusting conditions. WNBA players have contacted the Players association to discuss the situation they find themselves in.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has called out the NBA to address the issues, and solve them for the WNBA.
In a rarity for First Take, @stephenasmith went off main topic this morning to discuss the WNBA and its bubble accommodations versus NBA's Disney plans.
"The NBA might need to be aware of that and make sure they address that quick, fast and in a hurry."
— Cassandra Negley (@CasNegley) July 7, 2020
These women left their whole life behind, risking their health, to enter this bubble to play a 22 game season. The very least you can do is accommodate them with safe and clean living conditions.