While the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol will be remembered as a day of infamy in the United States, it will also be known as the day that Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler in her campaign in Georgia. Perhaps the most interesting reason for her loss is that The Atlanta Dream — the WNBA team Loeffler partly owned — came out in vocal support of Warnock. A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, Loeffler campaigned on a number of conservative issues such as illegal immigration, national security and defending Second Amendment rights.
Following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, the players of the Atlanta Dream began to wear “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” t-shirts. Loeffler denounced her team’s players, stating that their shirts “advocate things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family” and “promotes violence and antisemitism.” The players on the Dream responded, calling for Loeffler to be removed from the team’s ownership group, issuing a statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter and wearing “Vote Warnock” shirts in support of Loeffler’s Democratic challenger. Even with increasing pressure from her players, Loeffler refused to sell the team and doubled down on her opposition to the movement.
The Dream did not back down either, throwing their full support behind Rev. Warnock. At the time, Warnock was polling at just nine percent of registered voters. The elevated attention on Warnock led to a big spike in fundraising and support from major Democrats like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and eventually former President Obama and President Biden. The momentum started by the Atlanta Dream snowballed into a two-point Warnock victory, making him the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. Senate in Georgia.
Following Loeffler’s defeat, the Dream’s players continued to push for Loeffler to sell the team. By the end of February, the relationship between Loeffler and the team was irredeemable. On Feb. 27, an undisclosed agreement was reached and approved by the WNBA for Loeffler to sell the team to a new ownership group including Larry Gottesdiener, Suzanne Abair, and former Dream superstar Renee Montgomery.
The players of the Atlanta Dream used their voices and their platform to push out their team owner and caused her tenure as a U.S. Senator to come to a swift end. Professional athletes wield extraordinary power as they have the capability to captivate millions of people with not just their play but their words. The Atlanta Dream proved to the world that athletes should no longer be trifled with on the political stage, and that they are not just going to “shut up and dribble” anymore.