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Archive for January 6, 2021

Jan. 6, 2021 — Could the votes of 2.2 million people have an outsized effect on the WNBA?

Yesterday, a runoff election took place in the state of Georgia for two U.S. Senate seats.

As of this morning, one of the losing candidates was Kelly Loeffler, the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Loeffler had been appointed to the senate seat by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who for health reasons stepped aside.

In the mid-summer, Loeffler was polling in the mid-20s, while her eventual runoff opponent, Raphael Warnock, was polling at a mere nine percent. However, when WNBA players, including the entire Dream roster, expressed support for Warnock, his poll numbers and profile rose.

That profile rose to the point where he was able to get 2.2 million votes yesterday, which is roughly twice as many people who have ever bought a ticket to an Atlanta Dream game since the inaugural 2008 season.

Loeffler’s position within Washington was built on the amassing of wealth. Her husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange’s parent company, and, as such, made her the single richest U.S. Senator.

Oddly enough, she hadn’t had much of a hand in the day-to-day operations of the Atlanta Dream, but somehow found time to criticize her own team for wearing protest shirts and leaving the court pre-game and staying in the dressing room while the National Anthem played before a game in the WNBA’s summer bubble last year.

Loeffler isn’t the first person in the current political class to be connected with a women’s sports team. Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, is a majority owner of Sky Blue FC, the NWSL soccer franchise that plays out of New Brunswick, N.J.

But Loeffler did something that only Dan Borislow, the former owner of magicJack FC managed to do, and that is to turn employees of the sports team against the owner in a highly public way.

When it came to Borislow, he alienated players, coaches, and fans of the team’s former home in the greater Washington, D.C. area with his actions, including naming himself head coach even though he did not have the requisite coaching license.

The question I’m posing here is, “Can Kelly Loeffler effect some sort of punishment on her Atlanta Dream players that could affect the stability of the entire WNBA?” While there is no indication that Loeffler is likely to sell her share of the team to a possible ownership group including the likes of LeBron James, I do wonder if Loeffler could leverage her position as a team owner to create some sort of crisis that could ripple across the league.

I’m not kidding. This could get ugly.