Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery plans to skip the upcoming W.N.B.A. season to concentrate on selling social justice causes, changing into the league’s first participant to publicly decide out of the league’s plans for a shortened season through the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s work to be finished off the court docket in so many areas in our group,” Montgomery said on Twitter on Thursday. She additionally wrote a chunk for the Gamers’ Tribune explaining her resolution. “Social justice reform isn’t going to occur in a single day however I do really feel that now’s the time and moments equal momentum.”
Montgomery, 33, has actively demonstrated in individual and on-line following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, talking out on points together with racism, police brutality and voting rights. She stated in an interview that she plans to spend the subsequent few months figuring out how she can assist.
“It might be unfair for my teammates and coaches to be half-in, half-out of the bubble mentally after I know I wish to be on the bottom, getting nearer with these communities in want,” stated Montgomery, a one-time All-Star. “And now extra persons are like, ‘Yeah, we get that, we’d like change.’ We didn’t have that earlier than.”
Workforce officers supported her resolution, saying it reflected the W.N.B.A.’s desire to encourage athletes to be active in social causes. The Dream donated to Montgomery’s foundation, which she founded last year to help children through sports, and planned to attend a rally with Montgomery on Friday to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, said Chris Sienko, the team’s president and general manager.
“What Renee has decided to do should be applauded by everybody,” Sienko said.
Montgomery played for the Minnesota Lynx in 2016, when W.N.B.A. players became early supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2014, N.B.A. players denounced the death of Eric Garner by wearing shirts that said “I can’t breathe” and in the fall of 2016, N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling at games to protest systemic racism and violence.
That year, in the wake of the police shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota, players for the Lynx and other teams began wearing black T-shirts to support Black Lives Matter. The W.N.B.A. even fined three teams and several individual players for the shirts, though the penalties were rescinded.
Montgomery said she was inspired by several teammates that season, including Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen, to take a stand for black lives. And with the six-time All-Star Moore declaring in January that she would sit out a second straight season to focus on criminal justice reform, Montgomery felt comfortable taking time away from the game, too.
“It definitely made me feel more comfortable taking a leap of faith,” Montgomery said. “I’m really taking a leap of faith because I know I want to make change, and I don’t have an exact blueprint for it, but there are things that need to be reformed.”
Montgomery is one of many players calling for change. A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, who played for South Carolina in college, is calling for the university to rename its fitness center, which at present bears the title of Strom Thurmond, a segregationist senator.
Montgomery stated the outpouring of assist for her resolution has been completely different from the response Moore obtained when she first determined to take a break from the sport, through the prime of her profession at age 29. Moore left basketball to assist the attraction of Jonathan Irons, a person she believed to be wrongly convicted of housebreaking and assault.
Montgomery, one of many league’s high 3-point shooters, began all 34 regular-season video games by which she performed final season and gained titles with Minnesota in 2015 and 2017. She was the No. four draft pick of the College of Connecticut in 2009 after profitable the N.C.A.A. championship that 12 months.
The W.N.B.A. and its gamers’ union agreed on a framework for the season this week, together with a 22-game common season to start out in late July and a full playoff schedule, with all video games held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Gamers have till June 25 to inform their groups in the event that they plan to take part, and people who do will obtain 100 p.c of their salaries, regardless that the video games can be performed with out followers. Montgomery opted out of her wage for the 2020 season, a crew spokesperson stated.
It isn’t clear whether or not different gamers will resolve in opposition to enjoying through the pandemic. Dream guard Mikayla Pivec, chosen within the third spherical of this 12 months’s W.N.B.A. draft out of Oregon State, determined in Might to take 2020 off for personal reasons.
League officers stated once they introduced the plan that they wished the season itself to be a platform to assist activism by gamers.
“No matter we’re saying on the within of this bubble, so to talk, can assist amplify these voices that have to be heard — what Renee is advocating for and what different athletes are advocating for,” Sienko stated. “This can be a distinctive alternative for us to assist these voices, to understand the concern and the anguish that the group has been going by for years and years and years.”
And Montgomery stated she remains to be encouraging her teammates to win, regardless that they are going to be with out her mentorship on the ground.
“It’s corny, however pop all these different groups’ bubbles that assume they’re going to win the championship,” she stated.