Beyond The Scoreboard: Embodying ‘More Than an Athlete’ Mindset Perfectly


Renee Montgomery (above) went from the hardwood to the ownership room for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Alongside the likes of Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore and Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, former Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery announced last summer she too would be opting out of the 2020 WNBA season in order to focus her free time on social and racial justice issues. Little did the 34-year-old Montgomery know this decision would ultimately lead her back to the Dream in a different capacity nearly nine months later.

Last Friday, the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the Dream’s sale to a three-member investment group. Two of those three members come from Northland, a privately-held real estate firm based in Massachusetts. Larry Gottesdiener, Chairman of Northland, will serve as the team’s majority owner. Joining him in this new endeavor is the firm’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Suzanne Abair.

As for the third and final member of the Dream’s ownership group? That honor will go to the former 11-year pro and two-time WNBA champion in Montgomery. With the sale officially completed, Montgomery is now the first former player to become both an owner and executive of a WNBA franchise.

Seeing former and current professional athletes make the transition from being a player to owning a franchise is certainly not uncommon. The NBA’s Charlotte Hornets have been under the direction of Michael Jordan’s ownership since 2010. Since 2012, fellow NBA hall-of-famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been part of the ownership group for the current reigning MLB World Series Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Current athletes like two-time WNBA MVP Candance Parker and tennis’ emerging young superstar Naomi Osaka have recently invested in the ownership of the NWSL’s Angel City FC and North Carolina Courage, respectively. Parker and Osaka were two of the names Montgomery mentioned during Friday’s press conference with Atlanta’s new co-owners as athletes who helped influence her decision to make an investment in sports, particularly women’s sports. “Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously,”said Montgomery.

Montgomery went on to also credit a tweet from LeBron James back in January which helped nudge her in the direction of deciding to make her team ownership dreams a vivid reality. Montgomery had already been involved in More Than a Vote, an initiative co-founded by James to combat systemic voter suppression around the country.

“That tweet actually prompted my mind,” Montgomery said during Friday’s press conference. She went on to say, “In October I kind of started to figure out if this could be a real possibility, and then when I did see that tweet, knowing the connection that I had with More Than a Vote and just their connection to the league and to the WNBA, I just reached out to them, and I was like, hey, you know, if you guys are serious, I’m interested, as well.”

LeBron’s tweet essentially pushed for new owners in Atlanta following the tumultuous year the franchise had endured, specifically with co-owner and former U.S. Senator Kelly Leoffler’s comments last summer criticizing the WNBA’s plan to spread the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message while playing in their respective bubble environment at IMG Academy. Leoffler went on to write in a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message “promoted violence and destruction around the country.”

Those sentiments prompted the players union to call for Loeffler’s immediate removal as team co-owner and demand she sell her 49% stake in the Dream. Initially, Loeffler had no intentions of selling her share any time soon. Yet, behind the efforts of players like Montgomery, the WNBA banded together to prove that one owner’s thoughts did not represent the players who helped make the league what it is today. Montgomery’s teammates on the Dream began showing support for Democratic candidate Reverend Rapheal Warnock, Loeffler’s opponent this past fall to represent Georgia in the senate.

Georgia, which has long been a red state politically, saw an unlikely runoff in both Senate races that left many believing the Dream’s campaign against the owner of their team could result in Warnock potentially defeating Loeffler. More importantly, the players’ call for action ended up giving both Warnock and fellow Democratic candidate Jon Ossof triumphant victories, ultimately giving the balance of power in the Senate to the Democratic party because voters came out in droves to place their respective votes.

If not for players from the Dream and around the WNBA speaking out against Loeffler, it is incredibly hard to believe change of this magnitude would have occurred in not only getting her ousted as a team owner, but as one of the people who represent this country in our Senate. Think about that: someone like Loeffler had the distinct privilege of being a political leader for others to look up to. Unfortunately, Loeffler’s values are a haunting reality that there is still a strong contingent of people out there who share the same ideals of what they believe is “a perfect world.”

But, professional athletes understand their job is not to “stick to sports” or “shut up and dribble” in an effort to appease critics who wish on a star every night that they had the talent to play sports at the highest level. Being just an athlete in this society should no longer be the expectation. Montgomery is one of many athletes who understand the fundamental idea that being “More than an Athlete” requires patience, passion and perseverance. So, moving forward, be sure to address her correctly: Renee Montgomery, new co-owner of the Atlanta Dream.