The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream is now owned and operated by a three-member investor group, which includes recently retired WNBA player Renee Montgomery.
Montgomery, the first former player to become both an owner and executive of a WNBA team, joins Northland Chairman Larry Gottesdiener and President and Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Abair as the new Dream ownership group. The league last week approved the sale, the second such approval of a franchise sale in a month—Las Vegas was sold in January to Mike Davis, who owns the NFL’s Raiders football team.
“I’m so excited because when I opted out [in 2020] I didn’t know what was going to happen,” explained Montgomery to reporters, including the MSR, during a Feb. 26 conference call. “Hearing what Larry and Suzanne envision for the Dream, I’m excited because that’s exactly what I would want to do with the Dream as well.”
Last year was a watershed moment for Montgomery, then a member of the Dream. Because of the coronavirus, the 11-year veteran guard, along with several other players, chose the opt-out provision offered by the league to not play last summer. The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among other police-related killings of Blacks, moved her and her fellow WNBAers to boldly speak out at every opportunity against racial injustice and promote social change.
Also during this time, then-Dream co-owner and U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was seeking a full term, began speaking out against Black Lives Matter among other disparaging remarks about Blacks, which hit home to the majority of WNBA players who are Black. Amidst calls that Loeffler be removed from team ownership, the W players instead threw their full support behind her opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Many believe this ultimately swung the election in favor of Warnock, who defeated Loeffler in a special election in January. Then last fall it was announced that the Atlanta franchise was up for sale.
“The WNBA players, particularly the Dream players, were put in a difficult position,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters on last week’s call. “I was proud of the way they handled the situation.”
When a reporter asked if the Loeffler controversy had any impact on the sale of the Dream, the commissioner, while thanking both Loeffler and former co-owner Mary Block, said, “We’re looking towards the future and a new beginning for the Dream players and quite frankly the WNBA.”
Montgomery is not the first Black female WNBA owner—Sheila C. Johnson has been majority partner of the Washington Mystics since 2005. But as we seem to be in a new age of Black athlete activism, Montgomery essentially becomes one of its leading voices as well as a trailblazer.
“We’ve all spoken about it,” she said of the need for systemic change in this country. “The players have already set that tone.”
The new co-owner said Atlanta is the best place for women in leadership: “It’s full of powerful women, women that are leaders in business, in management. Our mayor is Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. We have a Stacey Abrams here who has led the way [in mobilizing voter registration and activism]. I’m excited to be in a city that is very welcoming to powerful women.”
During her hiatus last summer and subsequent retirement as a player last fall, Montgomery entered into broadcasting along with her social justice work. She said she will continue in these efforts.
And on being a Black woman in team ownership, she said, “It’s exciting when you see representation at a high level of management.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.