The WNBA players woke up on Wednesday morning to find their social justice work had paid off and the candidate they campaigned hard for had reached the U.S. Senate. It was a triumphant feeling for players who were used as a campaigning tactic by Atlanta Dream co-owner and outgoing Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler.
They finished it, as did the rest of the world, by watching supporters of President Trump storm the U.S. Capitol with what appeared to be little resistance from police. For some, it was a stark contrast to Black Lives Matter protests this summer and has been called out by many in the ensuing days.
Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird helped lead the league-wide support for Rev. Raphael Warnock and described what the day was like from her perspective on “The Ladies’ Room” podcast.
Bird: ‘Maybe this needed to happen’
The four-time WNBA champion was shooting a commercial when the Capitol was broken into, so she got her initial news from a group chat and occasionally Twitter, she said. Hours after the mob infiltrated what’s known as “The People’s House,” she was able to catch up and “kind of consume it all.”
There was sadness, anger and a lack of understanding, she said. Then there was the thought that “maybe this needed to happen,” which she recognizes comes from a place of privilege.
“I feel like I can say this from a place of privilege, sadly, but simultaneously it was like, maybe this needed to happen,” Bird said. “Maybe people who have been saying this didn’t exist, saying there isn’t racism in our country, maybe they needed to see this and this can be the start of rebuilding America so to speak. I don’t even know if that’s the right way to say it.
“And I think I would feel extremely scared, like just really scared, if we didn’t have a Democratic president and now a Democratic senate. That gives some hope. So it does kind of circle back to the good feelings of when we all found out that Rev. Warnock won and then when [Jon] Ossoff won as well.”
The race for the other senate seat from Georgia was called for Ossoff while Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol. The two victories mean the senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a Democrat, is the deciding vote.
WNBA has fought for racial justice for years
The WNBA has been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice and this year their efforts seem to have finally broken into the mainstream for acknowledgement. They have done it as one, rather than as individuals, as Bird discusses on the podcast. The NBA has followed suit, and their players were also outspoken this week.
Players locked arms and knelt together on Wednesday night after the riot. Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green and Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George were among the first to question the difference in treatment between Wednesday’s rioters, who were mostly white, and the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich unloaded on the rioters actions and President Trump ahead of their game on Thursday. And LeBron James walked in with a “Do you understand now?” T-shirts, writing on Instagram “2 AMERIKKKAS we live in.”
What’s next for Bird, WNBA?
Their activism won’t stop. The newly formed social justice council is currently discussing issues including what players will do during the anthem when the season starts up in May. Bird said she’s personally working on keeping up on her education about issues, such as if the electoral college is needed.
And notably Warnock will need to run again next year since the seat he won was originally Johnny Isakson’s and runs out in 2022. Loeffler was appointed to the seat in January 2020 after Isakson resigned due to health issues.
Now that the runoff election is over, the WNBA will need to face the Loeffler problem. She is a co-owner of the Dream and has said she won’t sell, while the league office has also said they won’t force her out. The flip is that players have already voiced their opposition to signing with the team if she remains there, creating a competitive disadvantage for Atlanta.
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