Renee Montgomery: Sitting Out WNBA Season To Focus on Social Justice

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[WNBA Renee Montgomery]
Renee Montgomery: “Obviously, when George Floyd was murdered, that triggered the world and everyone woke up at that point...We have great momentum right now.”
Photo: YouTube

WNBA champion Renee Montgomery has announced she is sitting out upcoming WNBA season to focus on criminal justice and civil rights issues.

Renee Montgomery has been known as a champion at all levels of her basketball career — three state titles in high school at South Charleston and Capital, one in college at Connecticut and two in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx.

But now, Montgomery is becoming known as a champion of another sort — one of social justice reforms. And in turn, she’s being regarded as more than just an athlete — she’s being called a crusader and a trailblazer.

Last week, Montgomery announced she is sitting out the upcoming WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream, which would have been her 12th in the pro league, in order to focus on social justice and civil rights. Several media outlets pegged Montgomery as the first pro athlete this year to walk away from his or her career to immerse themselves in those issues, which have become a hot-button topic across the country.

“To me, it sounds crazy — because it’s me,” Montgomery said in a telephone interview with HD Media.

Montgomery said advocacy work wasn’t even on her radar back in February. But the May 25 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, while in police custody in Minnesota started to change her perspective as protests sprouted all over the country, some of them coming close to Montgomery’s neighborhood in Atlanta.

“It was a series of events,” Montgomery said of her new calling. “Obviously, when George Floyd was murdered, that triggered the world and everyone woke up at that point. I was talking to my mom about her going through the same thing as far as riots were concerned, and civil rights movements. It just blocked in my mind. We have great momentum right now.”

Montgomery’s mother, Bertlela, lived in Detroit in the summer of 1967 when civil rights riots pitted Black residents there against the city’s police force.

In The Players’ Tribune, a media platform that allows athletes to connect with fans in their own words, the 33-year-old Montgomery explained her feelings.

“A whole bunch of emotions were running through me,” she wrote. “I felt empowered. I felt nervous.”

Soon, Montgomery was handing out water bottles at Black Lives Matter protests in Atlanta. She then set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for water and other supplies. She also had her eye on other topics she felt were essential in the Black community.

“Educated financial literacy is something that needs to be focused on, definitely, and voting,” Montgomery told HD Media. “Educating the younger generation, those 18 years old and able to vote now, and things of that nature. Educating why they should vote.

“It’s something I want to do at the local level. Build back up the communities, whether it’s an event I’m doing or a minority-owned business, trying to build up the community.”

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