The Georgia runoff election did not go as planned for Kelly Loeffler. The Republican US senator lost her reelection bid to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, a church pastor who will become Georgia’s first Black senator. It was a crucial race that could help swing the balance of power in the US Congress in favor of the Democrats.
Among those who opposed Loeffler’s reelection were members of the Atlanta Dream, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team she has co-owned for roughly a decade. For months, the situation has created an awkward public division between Loeffler and the Dream’s players. As Loeffler’s loss became apparent, LeBron James stepped in with a solution, suggesting on Twitter he’s interested in forming an ownership group to buy the team.
The rift between Loeffler and players on the Dream started in July, after Loeffler objected to the WNBA’s plan to honor the Black Lives Matter movement on the warmup gear worn by teams. For more than a month protests had been taking place in the US over the police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. In a letter (pdf) to the WNBA’s commissioner, Loeffler condemned Black Lives Matter, saying it promoted violence, anti-Semitism, and the disruption of the nuclear family. “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 wrote. She also disparaged the group on Fox News.
After Loeffler’s letter, the WNBA players’ union called for Loeffler’s removal, and Dream players put out a signed statement backing Black Lives Matter. They also began to voice their displeasure of Loeffler, publicly wearing “Vote Warnock” t-shirts.
Loeffler has said she has no intention of selling the team. Though of course circumstances could change, particularly if tension escalates between her and the players. If that were to happen, James is a viable candidate to step in with an offer.
As one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, he has the financial means to become an owner, and he’s been perhaps the most outspoken advocate of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement in all of professional sports. Time magazine recently named him its athlete of the year for 2020, citing work such as More Than a Vote, the nonprofit James formed to promote voting.
He’s also influential enough to enlist support without much difficulty. “When you have somebody of LeBron’s stature setting the tone, it makes it that much easier for everyone to get on board,” Sue Bird, a WNBA all-star, told Time.
For now, though, Loeffler likely has more immediate considerations than the Dream as she prepares to leave office. Warnock expects to be sworn into the Senate in a matter of days.