For Pro Athlete Leading Social Justice Push, a Victory and Uncertainty

“An act of terror,” she called it, as we spoke over the phone.

“Seeing the faces of those people as they were in the Capitol, seeing their hubris, that’s what pained me,” she said. “They looked so confident that they were not going to face any consequences. That was a reminder of the systemic issues we face. The depth and complexity.”

She continued: “For us in the W.N.B.A., it started with this election, but unfortunately, what happened in D.C. reminded us that there are still people out there who feel emboldened to stand against the ideals we believe in.”

I could hear the irritation in her voice as she discussed the absence of a clampdown by law enforcement at the Capitol. In June, after the death of George Floyd, she attended a protest in downtown Atlanta. It was her first. Until that day, she had been hesitant to speak out about social justice. She tended to stand back, and let others do the talking.

But the demonstration in Atlanta changed her. She recounted the stern and overwhelming police presence. She said she was not alone in having to gird against intimidation. The entire crowd felt wary.

And yet she said she had never felt so strong, so connected to a cause. The march changed her. Standing back was no longer an option. Little did she know that days later, Loeffler would attempt to score political points by ripping a page from the Trump playbook and trying to pick a fight with Black athletes.

In a letter to the league commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, Loeffler denounced Black Lives Matter — which the W.N.B.A., in keeping with its history of activism, had embraced. Loeffler called B.L.M. a political movement and unspooled a string of false claims, including that it promotes “violence and destruction across the country.”

To say that players in a league that is 70 percent Black did not take kindly to such words is putting it mildly.

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