What's Tony Thinking

Don’t Say the Name


Yes, the President is sick. And I’m sick of him. And sick of the news being “all Trump all the time.” While his words and behavior move from distortions of reality to complete disconnection, we only get more of him. Drive-bys, “triumphant” White House balcony appearances, and his advice to not let COVID bother you.

It’s understandable. I mean he is the President. But still spending too much time with people who are disconnected from reality (read “psychotic”) makes you crazy too. And our whole nation is spending way too much time with this guy.

An alternate strategy is being modeled by the athletes of the WNBA, the Women’s Professional Basketball Association. (Our Seattle Storm may wrap up their fourth championship tonight. Go Storm!)

When the league went all in on racial justice and Black Lives Matter, one of the owners of the Atlanta Dream team, Senator Kelly Loeffler attacked.  Loeffler dismissed Black Lives Matter as unworthy of her support, and condemned the players for acts like wearing T-Shirts with the words, “Say her name,” referring to Breonna Taylor.

So the WNBA athletes decided to not say her name. Kelly Loeffler’s name. Loeffler is up for re-election this fall. But among the amazing athletes of the WNBA she is the one who is never mentioned. They interviewed her opponents and concluded that the guy they could all get behind was the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Among his predecessors in that pulpit, Martin Luther King Jr.

Here’s a bit from the NYT’s article on the WNBA players strategy and Loeffler’s response:

“Think back to June, to the raw-edged days after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. As the nation reeled and launched into self-examination, the W.N.B.A. was among the first professional leagues to say its upcoming season would be devoted to pushing for social justice and promoting the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was not a surprise. Nearly 70 percent of the league’s players are Black and a significant number of its stars are lesbian. They are women who know all too well the full brunt of discrimination. That is why they have been leaders in the justice fight for so long.

“Nor was it a surprise when they faced blowback.

“The surprise was that the blowback came from within. To be specific, from one of the league’s most influential voices, Loeffler, a Republican who is running to keep her seat in the Nov. 3 election.

“Loeffler reacted by publicly scoffing at the league’s pledge to double down on social justice support in 2020. She scorned the decision to cover player jerseys with the slogan “Say Her Name,” meant to call attention to the deaths of Black women like Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police.”

In the Bible, there’s a lot in a name. Knowing someone’s name gives access to that person, even power over them. Hence, God’s caginess when Moses asked, “What is your name?” “I am who I am,” said the Almighty.

If knowing someone’s name gives you a certain power, maybe unknowing a “big name” person is a different, a paradoxical, act of power? So you can’t get Sue Bird or any of the rest to do want Loeffler wanted, to give her air time and attention.

“’Words are things,’ said Nneka Ogwumike, the Los Angeles Sparks forward who is president of the league’s players’ association, as she walked me through the strategy. ‘Words have power. And to give energy to a name I think is very meaningful. So, we stopped saying that name.’”

They wear “Vote Warnock” shirts instead.

I look forward to the day when we no longer say, or hear, his name. I’m starting now. A one-day fast. Not saying his name.




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