Renee Montgomery’s journey from the basketball court to the boardroom was unexpected but rewarding, and she hopes it becomes the norm.
“That is the goal – to have diversity in all of the seats; to have that athlete perspective on every team,” said Montgomery, Co-Owner and Vice President of the Atlanta Dream.
“Imagine when, at a certain point with all sports teams, it’s common that there’s going to be a former player that’s an owner that’s in the ownership box or in executive leadership,” she continued. “I can’t wait until that’s the norm and everyone talks about it and thinks, ‘Can you believe that there weren’t actually athletes running the team before?’
“I feel like who better to run an organization than someone who gave all their blood, sweat, and tears?”
That’s exactly what Montgomery gave during her 11-year WNBA career. She played professionally with the Minnesota Lynx, who drafted her fourth overall in 2009. She won two WNBA championships with them and also had stops in Connecticut and Atlanta before opting out of the 2020 season to work on social justice issues, including police brutality.
She retired from the WNBA in 2021.
In addition to her ownership role with Dream, the 36-year-old is now also one of the three owners of the Fan Controlled Football (FCF) Beasts Indoor Football Team; the first WNBA player to become an owner and executive of a professional sports team and the first female owner in the FCF.
The path to ownership was not a part of the original plan, Montgomery admits, but she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Post-playing career, I wouldn’t say this was always the plan. It’s funny, when you’re an athlete, the plan is just to win a championship,” she said. “I knew I would be in the broadcast booth as an analyst or even on the entertainment side because I always like talking to people and connecting in different types of ways, so I felt that came natural.”
“But being an owner was something that ended up being a beautiful surprise in the sense that once I knew I wanted it, I went after it for sure. But it wasn’t in the long-term goals originally.”
Montgomery is especially happy to be a co-owner of a franchise she played for.
“Just to see how – not just myself has grown – but also the team and our staff. When we started, we didn’t have a full built-out staff,” she explained. “Our staff and people were wearing different hats but doing an incredible job. And now to walk into the office and see many different faces and the level of talent we have inside the office…it’s exciting.”
Although now sitting at the head of the table, Montgomery emphasizes her roots as an athlete are still ever present. She takes her “athlete perspective” into every meeting, she says, which helps her make important decisions.
“If we are talking about marketing, I’m always thinking, ‘What would a player think of this? What would they want to share on their social media? Etc.,’” Montgomery said. “At the end of the day, I am always going to be an athlete at heart, and so I always try to take that thought process into the meeting.
“I want to have a voice for the athletes in those meetings because usually, you don’t hear from them; they are usually not in the room. So I always just try to speak from that perspective.”
Montgomery knows her accomplishments on the business side of the ball have gained her a new legion of fans and admirers and have catapulted her into a different type of role model – a former athlete who inspires the next generation of owners and entrepreneurs.
“That’s the goal, to have a whole generation of owners that are not only athletes but understand it all. I love what we did here with the Atlanta Dream, to collaborate and run something together,” she said. “We need each other. That is ideal. We get a little bit of knowledge that comes from different backgrounds and put it all together to do the best we can.”
Montgomery, who counts her family and her wife Sirena Grace among her sheroes and heroes, is most proud of what she’s been able to accomplish and represent, while still being her authentic self.
“I didn’t set out to change the world. I just wanted to do what felt right to me, what felt right to my family, and in that process, everything changed for us,” she said. “It was a generational shift. The Montgomerys will now be a part of the ownership group. I’m just proud to be part of a generational change for the better.”
Whether she’s in the boardroom making personal decisions, outside performing community service work through her Renee Montgomery Foundation, or helping to organize voter registration drives, Montgomery lives by the personal motto: moments equal momentum.
“Sometimes we get caught up in thinking how big something is that you have to do, but if you just break it down minute by minute or your moment by your moment, then that to me, that is where I celebrate all wins.
“A win is a win. You might win each moment, or you might lose a moment, but then you have another one coming right up.”
And those are the moments that could make all the difference in the world.
WNBA reporter Dorothy J. Gentry writes a column on WNBA.com throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @DorothyJGentry. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.