The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream was sold after a tumultuous tenure under former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler. The WNBA and NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved the sale to Larry Gottesdiener, the chairman of the Massachusetts-based real estate private equity firm Northland Investment Corporation.
Gottesdiener will lead a three-member investor group comprised of himself, Northland president and chief operating officer Suzanne Abair, and former Dream star Renee Montgomery, who will become the first former player to become an owner and executive of a WNBA team. Montgomery is an investor and will be the lead executive.
Montgomery’s rise is a direct result of her leadership during the pandemic and at a time when our nation was experiencing a social reckoning and the sports world united to push the envelope on ending social injustice and racial oppression.
In August, players around the league called for Loeffler to sell her 49% stake in the Dream after she wrote a letter to WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert voicing her disapproval of the league’s initiatives to advocate for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the very least it showed that Loeffler was clueless and nsensitive to the feelings of her Black players. That oppressive posture caused players of all races to join together against her.
Loeffler, a staunch Trump supporter, who established a reputation as an ultra-right-wing loyalist and apologist, following her appointment to the upper chamber by Governor Brian Kemp in 2018, alleged the organization supported things like defunding the police, the removal of Jesus from churches, as well as the disruption of the nuclear family structure. She supported the divisive culture of the former President as his agenda harbored anti-semitism and promoted violence and destruction across the country.
She also added that highlighting one “particular political agenda would undermine the potential of the sport and that therefore sends a message of exclusion.”
This was followed by the WNBA players’ union calling for the CEO-turned-lawmaker to sell her shares of the franchise, and when these practices went unheard, the players came from another angle.
WNBA players then used their voices and voter rights to begin to endorse Loeffler’s campaign opponent, Democrat Raphael Warnock, who in turn won Georgia’s runoff election on January 5th. Couple that with Democrat Jon Ossoff’s victory in another runoff for Georgia’s other Senate seat and those crucial party gains handed the Democrats control of the Senate via a tiebreaking vote from Senate President and VP Kamala Harris.
WNBA’s Unified Front
Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm organized a campaign three months before the November election that saw players wearing “Vote Warnock” T-Shirts to games rather than voice their disapproval or broadcast criticism towards Loeffler.
Bird had her own run-ins with Donald Trump in the past and was very much invested in seeing his style of governing eliminated.
Her presence was huge for the Warnock campaign. Although the fight to get Loeffler removed was led by Black and White women, it was identified as a “Black” issue in the media. Bird’s approach showed restraint, composure and a racially unified stance across the league, dispelling the notion of the “Angry Black” woman while elevating Warnock’s profile.
The sale of the team was celebrated on Friday by prominent WNBA figures who have decried Loeffler’s views as antithetical to everything the 24-year-old league stands for.
“It’s time for the Atlanta Dream and their fan base to move (on) and heal.” It is our fervent wish that we never witness such an abuse of power and arrogant display of privilege.” Terri Jackson the executive director of the players’ union mentioned in a statement.
Jackson also had this to say:
“…It is also our hope that no one will ever attempt to use the players for individual political gain or favor. Those actions were unbelievably selfish, reckless, and extremely dangerous. And in ending I’ll say those type of people who would conduct themselves in that manner have absolutely no place in our sport.”
An Assist From The King
Montgomery a two-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx sat out the 2020 season to focus on social justice and recently announced her retirement after 11 professional seasons, embraced her role as a trailblazer in her own statement.
Montgomery credits Lakers superstar LeBron James and his “More Than A Vote” campaign for getting her connected to the right people.
It made her “Atlanta Dream” from player to owner become a reality.