Former WNBA player and pro sports owner Renee Montgomery talks activism and allyship
February 3, 2023
WNBA champion Renee Montgomery journeyed to Maine on Thursday to speak to the community about her life, career and activism. The talk, which took place in Kresge Auditorium, took the style of a Q&A, with field hockey goalkeeper Julia Arsenault ’23 and women’s tennis captain and President of the Athletes of Color Coalition (AoCC) Kennedi Carter ’23 serving as moderators.
Montgomery played college basketball at the University of Connecticut from 2005-2009. She was named the 2006 Big East Freshman of the Year and started at point guard for the 2009 NCAA Division I National Championship team that went 39–0. She was drafted fourth overall in the 2009 WNBA draft to the Minnesota Lynx. During her 11-year WNBA career, she won two championships with the Lynx before retiring in February 2021.
Now, Montgomery is vice president, part-owner and investor of the Atlanta Dream. She is also one of the three owners of the Fan Controlled Football (FCF) Beasts Indoor Football Team. She is the first WNBA player to become an owner and executive of a professional sports team and the first female owner in the FCF.
In June 2020, Montgomery announced in a tweet that she was opting out of the WNBA season to devote her time to protesting police brutality. Although she had no previous experience with protesting, Montgomery began with a simple and logistical task which she found rewarding.
“I was just thinking about volunteering … and so I’m like, ‘I’m gonna hand out water,’” Montgomery said. “It was very basic, but I’m like, ‘we’re yelling, we’re screaming, we’re chanting—we need water.’ So I just came out there, and I was the water girl.”
More recently, Montgomery continued her activism with the Atlanta Dream, as the team supported Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate Race.
“[Warnock] was pulling in the single digits before the WNBA started to wear ‘vote Warnock’ shirts and the Atlanta Dream started to get behind him—and then as we know, he went on to actually win the Senate race,” Montgomery said. “It was kind of wild to all of us … we feel like things are so grand that we can’t really affect it, but nah, it’s like this is a whole different time now.”
Having seen the power of protest and action in Atlanta, Montgomery came to prioritize substantive measures of involvement, or “pulling up,” over being well-spoken.
“Sometimes people don’t know how to be an ally … but I really do think that allyship is action. You don’t have to tweet all the time, but you can pull up, you know, you can support,” Montgomery said.
In addition to her activism against police brutality and racism, Montgomery created the Renee Montgomery Foundation in 2019 with the goal of aiding underserved communities in Atlanta. Prioritizing the power of experiences, Montgomery has worked to bring members of her communities—both in Atlanta and her home state of West Virginia—different opportunities like seats at WNBA games.
“With my foundation, the reason that we said ‘experiences change minds’ is because we wanted to provide experiences to people,” Montgomery said. “There’s no pro sports in West Virginia … so we took a busload of people to Atlanta to come to an Atlanta Dream game … and we let them experience another part of the nation because you could think that what you live in and your little town, you could think that that’s the world, and it’s really not.”
Following the talk, the enthusiasm about Montgomery was evident, as students stayed behind to speak and take pictures with her. Jai DuVal ’24, member of the women’s basketball team and director of external engagement for the AoCC, was particularly excited about getting to hear from one of her role models.
“Being a women’s basketball player, I’m starstruck. I’ve been watching [Montgomery] since she used to play in college,” DuVal said. “So to just have her here and have another Black woman speak at the school [was great]. It was really nice to have a woman who obviously has a deep career in sports and has done a lot of things for social justice outside of sports.”
Montgomery closed the discussion by emphasizing the significance that seemingly small actions can hold.
“Moments equal momentum because if you just keep adding little moments here or there, the people that you interact with now have a completely different view of what they thought [previously],” she said.
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