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In what has been a lengthy saga dating back to last July, it seems this chapter has finally come to an end. Former Atlanta Dream owner and Sen. Kelly Loeffler wrote a letter to the WNBA’s commissioner Cathy Engelbert expressing her opposition to the league’s plan to allow players to wear warm-up jerseys with the words “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” on them. These ladies became more than WNBA players; they also became social justice heroes.
This was while national protests amid the black lives matter movement poured into American streets and cities in outrage over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The players for the Atlanta Dream, as well as players throughout the WNBA, did not take kindly to Loeffler’s remarks.
Elizabeth Williams (the longest-tenured member of the Dream) spoke to Etan Thomas for a MLK Day roundtable and said “when she made those statements, it was right when we had gotten into the bubble, we were still in our quarantine period and a lot of the team wasn’t with us yet, so we got together and had a Zoom call and we were like, ‘We have to address this; we had to at least say something’.”
And address it they did.
“While we were brainstorming ideas, we realized that we can’t really do anything about her ownership; that’s on the league. But she is in the Senate seat, so we can do something about that,” Williams said. “We had connections with people who understood politics, and they were able to connect us with Rev. [Raphael] Warnock. After vetting him and having conversations with him…we decided we were going to support him and we knew it was going to be even more powerful having the entire league backing us. So when we had our first nationally televised game, we wore these ‘Vote Warnock’ shirts along with every other team in the league and it was just this incredible movement. And ultimately, Warnock ended up winning this runoff in January.”
The players did their part in making sure Loeffler did not get reelected, now it was up to the league to do theirs in making sure she no longer had an ownership stake.
As of February 26, 2021, the boards of the WNBA and NBA “have unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Dream” to an investor group led by Northland real estate Chairman Larry Gottesdiener, company COO Suzanne Abair and former Dream star Renee Montgomery, according to league officials.
“With the unanimous WNBA and NBA votes, today marks a new beginning for the Atlanta Dream organization and we are very pleased to welcome Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair to the WNBA,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.
“I admire their passion for women’s basketball, but more importantly, have been impressed with their values. I am also thrilled that former WNBA star Renee Montgomery will be joining the ownership group as an investor and executive for the team. Renee is a trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond.”
Montgomery is now the first former WNBA player to become an owner.
“My Dream has come true,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously.”