LeBron James and the WNBA have far more in common than just basketball. Both have long been champions of social justice, roles that they have embraced even more since Minnesota police killed George Floyd in May. Those progressive values have come into conflict with those espoused by Republican senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, who does not support the Black Lives Matter movement and has repeatedly called for the depoliticization of professional sports.
Her presence in a league that is otherwise so socially conscious has caused quite a bit of controversy, with players and pundits calling for her to sell her share of the team. She has refused to do so, which has only emboldened WNBA players to campaign against her. Several players were photographed wearing “Vote Warnock” shirts in the days leading up to Tuesday’s runoff senatorial election in Georgia in honor of Loeffler’s opponent, Reverend Raphael Warnock. According to Warnock’s team, their actions helped raise $236,000 in donations for his campaign, and as of this writing, Warnock is expected to win his race against Loeffler.
The WNBA’s players appear to have been successful in getting Loeffler out of office, but her presence in the league remains a source of conflict. That is where James comes in. On Twitter Tuesday, he offered to put together an ownership group to purchase the team from Loeffler and her co-owner, Mary Brock.
LeBron’s offer is a positive gesture, but there is no guarantee that he will succeed in purchasing the team. Loeffler is under no obligation to sell her share in the team, no matter how uncomfortable the situation becomes. James has campaigned on behalf of several Democratic candidates during his career and has been a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, whom Loeffler has aligned with politically.
If she were open to a sale, James would likely be able to afford to purchase the team comfortably. While discerning team valuations in the WNBA is difficult due to how often they are owned in conjunction with an NBA team, we do know that the league tends to lose money and reportedly generates only around $60 million in revenue annually. In its last full season, the NBA generated $8.76 billion, or around 146 times more revenue. Apply that logic to a typical NBA team sale in the neighborhood of $2 billion, and a WNBA team would be worth approximately $13.7 million. This is not an exact science, of course, but James will make almost $40 million this season alone. He can afford to purchase a WNBA team if it becomes available.
And his presence would do wonders for a league that shares his off-court values. Aside from removing a controversial owner, it would bring extra publicity to a league that has steadily gained popularity in recent years. LeBron would be, pun intended, Atlanta’s dream owner. Whether or not he will actually be able to purchase the team remains to be seen, but his interest will only put more pressure on Loeffler to sell the team.