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Renee Montgomery Sits Out 2020 Season as Catalyst for Change

When presented with the opportunity to use her platform to fight for change, she did just that. Weeks before the start of a pandemic-delayed season, 2x WNBA Champion, Renee Montgomery, announced that she would miss the upcoming season, in order to concentrate on social justice reform, voter registration, and other initiatives, with her Renee Montgomery Foundation.

Montgomery was expected to be a big part of the new-look Atlanta Dream, and presumably help serve as a mentor to rookie guard, Chennedy Carter. That mentorship will have to wait for now.

Over the past month, we’ve seen all 50 US states, and many countries around the world, share in protests to fight police brutality and systemic racism — a battle that continues. Montgomery was a part of local protests in Atlanta. She did her part in letting her voice be heard, along with ensuring other protesters were hydrated in the process. Though initially self-funded, she received contributions to assist with her efforts. 

In a recent Dream press conference, Montgomery spoke with members of the media following her announcement. 

Upon her initial thoughts of sitting out, Montgomery recalled a conversation she had with her head coach. “I called Coach Nicki three days ago, and told her how I felt. I didn’t know how she’d take it, because her job is how well we do on the basketball court. I called her to talk about something, not about basketball.” Coach Collen replied, “It sucks to not have you this season, but we support you.” To Montgomery, that response “was the best case scenario.”

photo: Mel Evans/AP

Also possibly helping her come to a decision, she referenced a conversation she had with her college coach, Geno Auriemma, in which she stated he posed a series of questions including:

1.) “Would you be okay financially?”

2.) “Do you understand that it could affect your basketball career?”

“I was answering the questions in my mind, and that’s when I told everyone that I’m going to opt out,” Montgomery added. 

Montgomery has done pretty much everything, on the court. She has won championships at all levels, and has been a part of some of the best teams in basketball history. This next venture could be some of her best work yet. 

We have seen so many companies and brands get behind the movement financially. When I asked Montgomery what she thought of it, she said, “Jordan brand donated $100 mil. Once companies of that magnitude take a stance, that’s a big deal. That’s corporate. If people know what corporate means, that’s a big deal.” 

Yes. It’s definitely a huge deal. Companies putting their money behind their words, is always a good start. 

Montgomery added, “A lot of times people like to stay out of social things, because they don’t want to upset corporate. For any brand that took a stance, that’s a big deal, because you didn’t see that. Four years ago, in Minnesota, we didn’t see that.”

What was four years ago? Members of the Minnesota Lynx wore shirts that contained, ”Change starts with us. Justice & accountability.”, before a game, versus the Dallas Wings. On the back, the T-shirts displayed the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who had been recently murdered by police. As a result, four off-duty MPD officers walked off the job, from providing security for the event. 

In Black culture, fashion and sneakers have been used to display messages to have voices heard. Custom designs displaying social messages, range from jerseys, to sneakers, to hoodies, and much more.

With basketball, sneakers are the most popular way to send a message. When asked if there were partnerships she is looking to forming, in order to keep the ball rolling, she said, “I hope that people reach out — companies, brands, people here in Atlanta — because I really didn’t have a plan. I’m open right now, and I want to be a catalyst for change.”

Her openness and willingness, to sacrifice her professional salary, in order to help her people, is a selfless act in itself. 

Since announcing her decision to sit out, Montgomery has been joined by Natasha Cloud, Tiffany Hayes, Liz Cambage, and more. 

To keep up with her latest endeavors, you can follow both Renee and the Renee Montgomery Foundation on Instagram at @itsReneeM and @RMFNonprofit respectively. 

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Brandon Davis
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Music. Hoops. Sneakers. Food. Those are things that I enjoy, and I somehow find a way to connect them all in exciting ways.

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