Renee Montgomery: Moves Become Movements
Renee Montgomery is the first WNBA player turned owner-VP. She's committed to not being the last.
Of all the moves made in basketball, there's none more powerful than the pivot. It's all about finding the moment, that one single second, when the whole game opens up and you can switch directions, fire off a pass or take your shot. It's how games are changed and champions are made. It's also how Renee Montgomery made history as the first former player to become owner and vice president of a WNBA team.
Renee found her moment in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement. After two WNBA championships and an 11-year career as a professional player, Renee saw what was happening to Black people in our country and questioned her purpose, both as an athlete and as a human. 'There's a lot of civil unrest happening', she recalls, 'and I'm like, "What's my role?"' She decided to hang up her jersey and spend the season figuring out what it was she needed to do.
"I want to make players feel heard, give them a voice".
She started making moves. Finding strength in her voice, she spoke out about social justice on behalf of herself and others. 'It's important to me to use my voice because some people aren't comfortable using their voice', she says. She wrote an open letter to the owners of her team, the Atlanta Dream, about the racial injustices she was witnessing. She showed up at protests and educated people on the importance of their vote. Still, she wasn't satisfied with her impact. 'Everybody was talking about, "it's going to take forever for the system to change", but I'm like, "what about the now?" And that's when the concept of ownership came up'.
'We're working together and we're building together, and to me, that's goals'.
Gaining momentum as an activist and a leader in her community, Renee found her opportunity to pivot. She started seeing herself as an owner and as someone who could create change from the top, using everything she knew about teamwork, communication and shared values to bring something to the table that was missing. 'I want to make players feel heard, give them a voice', she says. After strategising and networking with others in the league, she made it happen.
'Every little moment that people add continues the movement and the momentum'.
Taking her advocacy to new heights as an executive on the Atlanta Dream, Renee set out to establish a new era in women's basketball—one in which a Black, LGBTQ+ female athlete can lead a team and a movement at the same time. She founded Renee's Runs, an all-female casual basketball league in Atlanta, Georgia, to build up the women's basketball community and pass the ball to the next generation of athletes. For many women, from casual players to former professional athletes, Renee's Runs is a space where they can empower one another, connect and grow. 'We're working together and we're building together, and to me, that's goals', Renee says.
In a world that wants to define athletes by their accomplishments on the court, Renee shows us that sometimes, it's the moves we make off the court that change the game for good. 'I dedicated my life to basketball because I love it. And I felt like it's an avenue for me to do different things. But every little moment that people add continues the movement and the momentum. That moment doesn't have to be a protest. That moment could be anything. You've just got to create'.
Words: Sophie Rosenoer
Photography: Braylen Dion
Film: Bethany Mollenkof