When the Atlanta Dream return to action next month, one of the team’s best players will not be there.
Renee Montgomery announced Thursday she will sit out the entire 2020 WNBA season to focus on off-court social initiatives that are close to her heart.
Montgomery has played 11 seasons in the league. In the last two seasons in Atlanta she started every game and averaged 10 points per game.
Now, Montgomery is putting her focus into issues such as social justice reform and raising funds to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
After George Floyd’s death and demonstrations began, Montgomery wanted to invest all of her time in finding ways to make an impact, especially here in Atlanta.
“I’m one of those people who are all in or I’m not in,” Montgomery told Channel 2′s Alison Mastrangelo. “Now is different than any time before. There’s something happening. I want to be part of that something.”
Montgomery isn’t the only WNBA player skipping the season to focus on reform.
Maya Moore, who was a star at Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County, sat out last season to support family friend Jonathan Irons in his fight to get his conviction overturned.
Moore announced in January that she planned to sit out again in 2020. Two months later in March, a judge ruled in her friend’s favor.
“She was ahead of her time. She’s the smartest person in the room. I get what she’s doing,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said before her decision that she spoke with legendary women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who coach both women at UConn. He told Montgomery the questions he had asked Moore about her decision.
“He was like, “Do you understand the financial part of it?” Do you understand this? Do you understand that? When he was saying the things he was asking her, I was answering in my mind. OK, yeah, I’m ready. That kind of just confirmed it for me.”
Montgomery said she called the Dream and coach Nicki Collen a few days ago to inform them of her decision. The Dream organization and coaches have expressed their support for Montgomery and her cause.
“While I am saddened Renee will not be in a Dream uniform this summer, I am incredibly proud of her passion for her foundation, her outreach in the community and her chance to impact the Black Lives Matter movement with her platform as a WNBA athlete,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “As a coach in this league I understand that I can’t just say we are “bigger than ball” but rather I must embody it.”
The Renee Montgomery Foundation has raised thousands on its GoFundMe page. The foundation will also host a Juneteenth pop-up event at Centennial Olympic Park starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
From there, Montgomery hopes to partner and work with other organizations and companies to make a lasting change in society.
The Dream guard told Mastrangelo that it’s time to seize the momentum.
“Main focus I want to do is systemic. I know it’s not going to happen overnight. But I want to pour gasoline onto this social justice movement,” Montgomery said. “Whether there’s a bill that doesn’t make sense. Whether it’s telling people about voting. Telling people why voting’s important....so it’s almost that educational process.”
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