Kelly Loeffler sells Atlanta Dream to investor group including Renee Montgomery
Retired player Renee Montgomery is the first former WNBA player to have an ownership stake in a league team
Kelly Loeffler, the former U.S. senator from Georgia, has sold her ownership of the Atlanta Dream and now Renee Montgomery, a former player on the WNBA team, has a stake in the organization as of Friday.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the franchise was sold to a three-member investor group that includes Montgomery, who declined to play last year due to racism and coronavirus concerns and retired from the league. She joined the Dream in 2018.
A majority share of the women’s basketball team was sold to Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of Northland Investment Corporation, a real estate firm near Boston. Alongside Gottsediener, the Dream will be co-owned by Suzanne Abair, president and chief operating officer of Northland, and Montgomery. The trio makes up the investor group.
The move makes Montgomery, who plans to be hands-on in leading the team with Abair, the first former player to be both an owner and executive of a WNBA franchise.
Loeffler had been co-owner of the Dream along with Mary Brock since 2011. However, in 2020, she had been subject to backlash due to her stance against the Black Lives Matter movement and the support it received from Dream players.
As reported by ESPN, Loeffler, a staunch Trump supporter, spoke out last July against the WNBA and its union’s decision to honor Black women like Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, two victims of fatal police encounters dating back to 2015. She expressed she was “incredibly disappointment” that the league was trying to insert a “political platform into the league.”
During the 2020 WNBA playoffs, many players protested against the police shootings of unarmed Black men and women during games. Many Dream players also offered their support and endorsement of now-Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, who defeated Loeffler in a special election for her Georgia senate seat in the most recent election cycle. Loeffler, a businesswoman, was appointed to the post in January 2020.
Players also called for Loeffler to sell the Dream, though she resisted. Although the terms are unknown, the WNBA and its Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale.
According to the Washington Post, Gottsediener will have the majority stake in the team, while Montgomery says she and Abair will run the “day-to-day” operations.
Montgomery, who won two championships and a WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year award during her 11-year career, spent her last two seasons with the Dream. However, according to the Associated Press, after deciding to take a more active role in social justice, she sat out the 2020 season and announced her retirement from the league on her podcast, Remotely Rene, earlier this month.
Montgomery calls her and Abair’s ownership roles “a win for women’s sports.”
“That shows a lot of representation,” she told the Washington Post. “All the things that we wanted as players, it’s happening here in Atlanta.”
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert applauded Montgomery’s new role in ownership.
“I think it’s great that Renee has stepped up after she retired from playing the game to continue having an impact on the game,” Engelbert stated. “I’ve seen her strong work ethic. I’ve seen her advocacy and knowledge of the game and I’m sure that’s going to be an asset to Larry and Suzanne and a huge benefit to the team.”
Terri Jackson, executive director of the WNBA Player’s Association, expressed her approval of the sale and how it presents an “opportunity to heal and move forward” after Loeffler’s statements and views.
“It is our fervent wish that we shall never see again such an abuse of power and arrogant display of privilege,” Jackson said. “It is our hope that no one will ever again attempt to use the players for individual political gain or favor. Those actions were unbelievably selfish, reckless and dangerous. And those who would conduct themselves in that manner have absolutely no place in our sport.”
New co-owner Gottsediener has also stated his support of the Dream players’ stances against police brutality and white supremacy.
“Last year, 2020, the players of the Dream refused to just shut up and dribble,” Gottesdiener said. “They found their collective voice and the world listened. We are inspired by these brave women who navigated sports and activism in the midst of a pandemic, and we want to celebrate and honor them. We are particularly proud to be stewards of this team, in this city, at this time.”
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!