Business & Lobbying

Kelly Loeffler’s WNBA team sold after players’ criticism

The Atlanta Dream has new owners after WNBA players called for former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) to sell her share of the team’s ownership.

The team announced on Friday that the league and its board of governors had unanimously approved the sale to Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of the real estate firm Northland Investment Corp.

Loeffler, who was one of the richest members of Congress, bought the team in 2011 with co-owner Mary Brock, former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises. Brock also sold her share, putting the team under entirely new ownership.

“Ten years ago we stepped up to keep the Dream in Atlanta, as an important asset for a vibrant and diverse city. It was also important to us to help level the playing field for women’s professional sports,” Brock and Loeffler said in a joint statement.

“We are proud of what we accomplished and wish the team well in their next chapter. We will always value the hard work and dedication, and the memories, fans and friendships that sustained our commitment to the Atlanta Dream over the last decade.”

The sale comes after months of tension between the former Republican senator and WNBA players over the Black Lives Matter movement.

Loeffler routinely denounced Black Lives Matter, calling it a “divisive organization based on marxist principles” that “seeks to destroy the American principles.”

She also called Black Lives Matter “anti-Semitic” and claimed that the organization is against the “nuclear family.”

When the league announced a plan in July to put the names of Black victims of police violence on players’ jerseys, Loeffler opposed the move in a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

The following day, WNBA Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike tweeted a link to a list of actions the league’s players were seeking.

Number one was: “Buy U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s ownership stake in the Atlanta Dream.”

Players across the league took steps such as wearing shirts endorsing Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who at the time was challenging Loeffler for the Senate seat, and celebrated his victory in January’s runoff election.

“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,” Atlanta Dream player Elizabeth Williams told The New York Times in August.

News of the sale is not entirely a surprise.

Engelbert said in July that Loeffler had not served as a governor of the Dream since October 2019 and was no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.

NBA star LeBron James even suggested in January that he was interested in buying the team.

The sale is also historic in nature.

Gottesdiener is part of a three-member investor group that includes Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Abair and Renee Montgomery, a former Dream player.

The sale makes Montgomery, a two-time WNBA champion, the first former player to become both an owner and executive of a WNBA team. She sat out the 2020 season to focus on social justice issues and recently announced her retirement from the league after 11 seasons.

“My Dream has come true,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously. I invite you to join me as the Dream builds momentum in Atlanta!”

James wrote on Twitter that he was “so proud of this queen.”

Tags Atlanta Dream Black Lives Matter Georgia senate elections Kelly Loeffler Larry Gottesdiener Lebron James Mary Brock Nneka Ogwumike racial injustice Raphael Warnock Renee Montgomery Social justice WNBA

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