Former Lynx guard Renee Montgomery, who won WNBA titles with Minnesota in 2015 and 2017, decided in 2020 to step away from the game over concerns about the coronavirus and to work on social justice issues.
She had played all 34 games for the Atlanta Dream in both 2018 and 2019. The franchise in 2020 came under fire by many players in the league — including many on the Dream itself — because team owner Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia senator aligned with former President Trump, did not support the Black Lives Matter movement that became central to the league's message.
Messaging from players within the league, in fact, played a key role in Loeffler's narrow loss to Raphael Warnock in Georgia's special election last month.
With that as a backdrop, Friday's news that the franchise has been sold carried some extra significance. Loeffler and co-owner Mary Brock sold to a three-person group with real estate investor Larry Gottesdiener stepping in as lead owner but more importantly with Montgomery also part of the ownership team.
Montgomery becomes the first former WNBA player to own a stake in a team, and she will have an executive role with the franchise as well.
In a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Montgomery said she has been thinking since October about the possibility of being a part-owner.
On social media, she replied to a congratulatory tweet from NBA star LeBron James by saying, "It's emotional over here because I prayed and worked hard for this."
For a league that has been at the forefront of working for social justice reform long before it became more of mainstream effort in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last May, this ownership change carries particular weight.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert noted the challenge that Dream players faced while playing for an owner with whom they were ideologically opposed and said they are "role models for advocacy."
Now the league has a group that is a complete 180. Gottesdiener pledged to support social justice initiatives.
And he has a co-investor in Montgomery who has walked the walk.