WNBA isn’t forcing Dream’s Kelly Loeffler to sell

2:06 PM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a U.S. senator from Georgia, won’t be pushed into selling her interest in the team but that the league is aware of other potential owners for the franchise.

Several WNBA players have called for Loeffler to no longer be involved with the team because of her remarks in opposition to the league embracing Black Lives Matter as one of its primary social justice initiatives this season.

“We’re not going to force her to sell her ownership,” Engelbert told CNN in an interview Thursday. “She is not a current governor, she is not involved in the day-to-day, and we are aware there are interested parties who want to purchase the team.

“We have a board of governors — she has not served as a governor since she became a senator, so since October of 2019.”

On July 10 in The Daily Caller, Loeffler reiterated her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, as she had in a letter sent to Engelbert, referring to the organization as a “radical Marxist group that actively promotes violence and destruction across the country.”

“Let me be clear: Every single African American life is important and must be valued,” Loeffler wrote. “We must root out racism, pursue justice and ensure equality for all. But that’s not the objective of the Black Lives Matter political organization. Making the statement that ‘Black lives matter’ and backing the nefarious entity of the same name are two very different things.”

Loeffler also said “the Left” was trying to silence her and take away her business, and she was not going to give up the team.

“We review all of our owners’ public statements,” Engelbert said. “We are aware that there are interested parties who want to purchase the team, and so I know that’s being worked on, but I can’t really comment on everything that’s said in the political environment.”

Engelbert, who has been commissioner for a year, also told CNN she had been surprised to receive the letter from Loeffler.

“From the short time I’ve known her … she’s been very supportive of women’s issues and women’s empowerment, has been very interested in her players and what they stand for,” Engelbert said in the CNN interview. “So I was surprised to receive it, but as commissioner I’m committed to making sure that the players’ platform — to vigorously advocate for social justice — is what we’re dedicating this season to.”

Engelbert was also asked by CNN about the situation with Elena Delle Donne of the defending champion Washington Mystics. Delle Donne is unhappy that she was denied a medical exemption for this WNBA season in Bradenton, Florida, based on her history of Lyme disease, and suggested in an ESPN interview on Wednesday that her status as MVP might have had something to do with the decision made by the panel that reviewed her case.

“We’re really sensitive to Elena’s health, and we support her,” Engelbert told CNN. “What we’ve been trying to do throughout setting up this whole season is to follow the science of the virus.

“We put in a process — that we worked out collectively with the players’ association — to create a level playing field for all WNBA players so everyone was treated fairly. It’s an independent medical review panel, and the level of player was not a factor when making any medical decisions.”

Engelbert also pointed out that the Mystics said they would pay Delle Donne’s salary this season as she rebabs after back surgery she had in January. Delle Donne’s agent, Erin Kane, told ESPN on Wednesday that Delle Donne and the Mystics were still figuring out if that would require her to go to the Mystics’ training facility in Washington, D.C. Delle Donne also has concerns about going there, Kane said.

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