Atlanta Dream star and Connecticut Huskies alumna Renee Montgomery will sit out the 2020 WNBA season in Florida to work toward social justice reform, she and the team announced Thursday.
She is the first professional basketball player to publicly opt-out for that reason and joins former Minnesota Lynx teammate Maya Moore, who announced before the COVID-19 pandemic she would sit out a second season.
After much thought, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season. There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!
— Renee Montgomery (@itsreneem_) June 18, 2020
The 2020 WNBA season is planned for late July in Florida at the IMG Academy.
Dream support Montgomery’s decision
Montgomery, a two-time WNBA champion with the Lynx in 2015 and 2017, will work on social justice reform through her Renee Montgomery Foundation. Both Dream president/general manager Chris Sienko and head coach Nicki Collen supported Montgomery’s choice in statements via the organization.
“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,” 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 team was the first WNBA team to designate Juneteenth as a paid company holiday, which Montgomery praised on social media.
The 5-foot-7 guard averaged 9.9 points, 3.2 assists in 27.7 minutes per game in her two seasons with the Dream. She is third all-time in franchise history with 146 made 3-pointers. The franchise was active in free agency and returned only four starters before Montgomery’s announcement.
Montgomery ‘craving’ being part of BLM movement
Montgomery, 33, is actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in Atlanta, where she plans to stay after retirement, and has been handing out water bottles at protests. Via Alexa Philippou of the Hartford Courant:
“A lot of people are craving sports and craving something to get away from reality, to just be able to go watch a game and get away from it,” Montgomery said in a phone interview. “I’m craving the opposite. I’m craving being a part of the movement and seeing the change.”
She told the Courant last week she plans to keep the protests going through November and the elections.
How many more player will opt-out?
NBA and WNBA players joined a call organized by Kyrie Irving last week to discuss any concerns over restarting the league’s respective seasons next month during the pandemic and in the current climate.
Irving would reportedly rather see players sit out and focus on racial justice reform, whereas players such as LeBron James reportedly believe both can be done at the same time. Some have called sports at this juncture “a distraction.”
Other players have also voiced their support of focusing on reform rather than returning to playing. But outside of Montgomery, no one has announced that they will skip the season to do so.
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