How Atlanta Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery is leading change in the WNBA

June 25, 2021, 2:30 PM UTC

Renee Montgomery may be an owner of the Atlanta Dream, but she has never forgotten her roots.

If a woman from a small town in West Virginia can become the owner of a WNBA team, so can other women, Montgomery told the audience at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen digital summit.

“I have nieces, I have nephews,” Montgomery said. “There’s so many little girls that can look up and say that they want to be an owner now, too. Those are the things that were important to me. Those are some of the reasons that I wanted to become a part-owner.”

In her journey to becoming an owner, Montgomery took a different path than most. For 11 years, Montgomery played in the WNBA as a point guard, winning two championships with the Minnesota Lynx. Montgomery said this experience sets her apart.

“As I’m watching the game, yeah, I’m watching it as part-owner and VP, but I’m also watching it like, ‘Man, we just blew a 15-point lead and now they caught up,’ and I’m looking at the bench and I’m watching the chemistry,” Montgomery said.

While the WNBA season took place in a bubble in 2020, Montgomery dedicated herself to advocating for social issues.

As an activist, Montgomery is not alone in the WNBA. The league dedicated the 2020 season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name movement, which raises awareness for Black female victims of police violence.

This issue is incredibly important to the athletes of the WNBA, Montgomery told Fortune. Many of the players are moms, and some of them have family members who have been victims of gun violence.

“We talk about hashtags—#BreonnaTaylor, #AhmaudArbery, #SandraBland,” Montgomery said. “But we really don’t want to have to ‘say her name’ anymore. We don’t want to have to be in those situations.”

Montgomery’s leadership stands in sharp contrast to that of her predecessor, former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who wrote to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to express her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. This sparked outrage from the team—some players even campaigned for Raphael Warnock, Loeffler’s opponent in last year’s Georgia Senate race. Now that Montgomery is a co-owner, things are a bit different.

“I know that the team knows now that it’s not just a one-time thing that we stood up for a cause,” Montgomery said. “We’re still speaking out for the people, and we’re still trying to be in the community.”

To further this mission, Montgomery said the Dream is looking for corporate sponsors and would especially welcome a sponsorship from the Atlanta-based airline giant Delta, as well as women-focused corporations.

The WNBA is a booming business on the verge of success, she said. As the league prospers, so will the Dream’s social activism efforts.

“This is the new us moving forward,” Montgomery said. “Atlanta Dream will be in the community, we are going to be that North Star in the WNBA.”

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