Women Powered: How a WNBA Team Won The U.S. Senate

7/11/2021

A more pointed question: have you ever lobbied for the greater good to get your boss fired from her job as a United States Senator, and in doing so swung the balance of power in your nation in a more progressive direction?


The Atlanta Dream have.

Power of The Dream

On January 6th, major news outlets called the runoff of the Georgia Senate election for Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. He defeated Kelly Loeffler, a recently appointed Republican Senator who had only served since January 2020. Loeffler is a former financial CEO and also part owner of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Dream. In August, Dream players made a powerful statement that jump started Warnock’s path to the Senate.

Loeffler had come out against the WNBA’s decision to allow messages of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against racial injustice. Instead, Loeffler wanted for there to be an American flag on the jerseys. The WNBA denied Loeffler’s appeal, and it furthered the divide between Dream players and their owner. Before a game against the Phoenix Mercury on August 4th, Atlanta Dream players warmed up in shirts that said “Vote Warnock”. 

Warnock had not been gaining much momentum before the Dream endorsement. Once it happened, steam picked up. Warnock reportedly earned over $180,000 in donations in the week after the Dream’s endorsement. The race became competitive, and then Warnock's to lose. While it took a second runoff election, Warnock became the first black Democrat Senator from the Southern United States since reconstruction. Just as importantly, his election made the balance of power 50-50 in the upcoming Senate.

The Big Picture

All eyes were on the two Georgia Senate runoffs for good reason. After all other races had been called in November, the United States Senate was sitting at 50 Republican Senators and 48 Democrats. That meant that for Democrats to control the House (which they won 222-212), the Senate and the Presidency, Democrats would need to win both runoffs in Georgia. In the event of a tied Senate, the Vice-President would be the tie breaking vote and dictate the majority party.

Democratic organizers deserve a ton of praise for their work in Georgia. The state turned blue in the general election for the first time since 1992, helping secure the win for Joe Biden. There were many grassroots organizations on the ground registering voters, including Fair Fight Action founded by Stacey Abrams. Through the November election and runoff, the Atlanta Dream players were vocal on social media. They amplified voting information, espoused the qualities of Warnock, and avoided taking direct shots at Loeffler.

Democrat Jon Ossoff was able to defeat Republican incumbent David Perdue in one race, giving Democrats 49 seats. In the other, Warnock was able to pull ahead in a direct matchup against Loeffler, securing the Senate for the Democrats. By turning the Senate blue, the work of the Atlanta Dream can be tied to a whole slate of progressive ideas for women in America.

The Democratic platform calls for progressive measures like a $15 minimum wage, mandatory paid family leave, restoring funding to Planned Parenthood, and protecting reproductive freedoms. With Democrats in charge of the Senate, they can now dictate which bills make it to the Senate floor for discussion and vote. They will be able to pass more progressive policies supporting female-identified folks, protecting them from discrimination and allowing them choice over their bodies.

That shift in the American democracy can be traced back to the Atlanta Dream taking a stand at a pivotal moment. Would Warnock have been able to secure the victory without them? It would’ve been harder, and the endorsement by the Dream is seen as the spark that ignited his campaign. Once again, the tide of progressive politics in American history has been buoyed by the bravery and work of women. Their motivation to support Warnock has now given a chance for the rights of all women in the United States to move forward. Their work and their effort has given hope to the masses.

Never, ever, tell athletes to shut up and dribble.

Image: Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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