Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, has lost her U.S. Senate runoff race in Georgia to Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate who was strongly endorsed by the WNBA’s players.
The special election was called early Wednesday morning by ABC News and The Associated Press, with Warnock receiving over 46,000 more votes than Loeffler.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James sent a Tweet in support of the WNBA franchise early Wednesday morning saying, “Think I’m gone put together an ownership group for The Dream. Whose in? #BlackVotesMatter.”
Loeffler has not indicated she intends to sell her share of the Dream, which she co-owns with Mary Brock. But the WNBA players’ support of her political opponent was one of the major stories of this past season. WNBA players wore “Vote Warnock” shirts this summer in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and they have been credited with raising Warnock’s profile.
Warnock was polling at 9% in August when he got the WNBA’s endorsement. Loeffler was then polling at 26%.
One primary focus of the league was support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Loeffler sent a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert on July 7 that criticized the league’s support of the movement. Loeffler said her opposition was specifically to the political views of BLM.
“The statement ‘Black lives matter’ is very different than the organization Black Lives Matter,” Loeffler said in a July interview with ESPN. “I think we all agree the life of every African American is important.”
But the WNBA players felt that Loeffler’s viewpoint and other statements she made were the antithesis of what the league stood for regarding both Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. After the race was called for Warnock early Wednesday morning, WNBA players responded on social media, including crediting Georgia Democratic political leader Stacey Abrams.
“Shout out to the local organizers in Georgia who made this happen!!!” New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon said in a Tweet. “We know and love Stacey Abrams and she’s the first to give credit to the other peeps who’ve also done the tireless work.”
Loeffler got her U.S. Senate seat in January 2020 when she was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who for health reasons stepped aside. Loeffler and Warnock then ran against each other in November’s election, but neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote. That prompted Tuesday’s runoff election; there also was a runoff between candidates David Perdue and Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race.
Loeffler became co-owner of the Dream in 2011, but she is not involved in the daily operations of the team, and she stepped down from her seat on the WNBA board of governors in October 2019.
“I’m proud of my people for getting out there and doing what they do best,” James said, “and that’s being heard and being seen and being powerful and being engaged.”