The Atlanta Dream Gave Us Raphael Warnock
Tuesday night, Rev. Raphael Warnock won his fifth race for the United States Senate in 25 months, securing a hard-earned six-year term in Congress and establishing himself as one of future (and current) stars of Democratic politics. His specific brand of broadly acceptable but still progressive center-left politics sure looks like what the party is going to construct itself around over the next decade, and you know what? It sure looks like a winning strategy.
But as people celebrate Sen. Warnock’s fifth victory, it’s worth looking back at his first one. Because the first one happened because of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. It’s the first time most of America learned Warnock’s name.
In July 2020, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who had been appointed to the Senate by Governor Brian Kemp and was running for her own job against several Democratic candidates, including Warnock, wrote an open letter, in the wake of the NBA’s decision to dedicate its season to the Black Lives Matter movement, that, “the truth is, we need less — not more politics in sports … I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement.” It was widely seen as a way to prove her right-wing bonafides against Doug Collins, a fellow right-wing candidate in the race. But the problem was that Leoffler was most well-known at the time not for being a Senator, but for being the owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. And her players weren’t happy.
So they decided to do something about it.
Elizabeth Williams, the Dream center who has played for the team since 2016, has credited Sue Bird, a player for the Seattle Storm (and Megan Rapinoe’s fiancée), with the idea to endorse Loeffler’s opponent. “When we realized what our owner was doing and how she was kind of using us and the Black Lives Matter movement for her political gain, we felt like we didn’t want to feel kind of lost as the pawns in this,” Williams previously told the New York Times. She and her teammates decided to debut their T-shirts during a nationally televised game against the Phoenix Mercury, some of whose members also wore the shirts.