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Interview: Renee Montgomery on Why She Opted Out of the WNBA Season

ATLANTA, GA SEPTEMBER 05: Atlanta’s Renee Montgomery (21) prepares to drive on Las Vegas’ Kelsey Plum (10) during the WNBA game between the Las Vegas Aces and the Atlanta Dream on September 5th, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Renee Montgomery is a point guard for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Following the police killing of George Floyd, Montgomery announced she was opting out of the upcoming WNBA season in order to focus on social reform. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about what went into that decision, and how she plans to use her platform to drive real change. 

You announced that you are opting out of the 2020 WNBA season in order to focus on social reform off the court. What was the motivation behind your decision? 

As you know, there was a string of murders — Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and then George Floyd. Once George Floyd was murdered, you could see that America reacted. The world reacted. I reacted, too. I think we are all just tired. We are tired of seeing this. We are tired of the same story. We know how it ends. The movement happened because, like me, everyone is tired.

What prompted you to focus specifically on social reform during this time?

I started to think about all of the problems within the system. It’s not just police brutality. We have problems in the prison system, too. And, then, I thought about the educational aspect of it. A lot of people are latching onto my story — they understand my decision because they know my story. That’s why I want to go into education reform because I believe that if people know more, they will understand more, and they will be more sympathetic.

Were your coaches supportive of your decision to opt out? 

Absolutely. They were surprisingly supportive in that basketball is a business and I was talking to them about something that could upset their jobs. But they took it in stride. And they actually ended up making Juneteenth a paid holiday. They didn’t only say that they were going to support me, but they actually acted on it.

A couple of other players have chosen to not play in the 2020 season for a mix of reasons, such as COVID and fighting for social reform. What do you think about other players choosing to opt out?

I love that athletes now have a choice on what they want to do. Whether they opt out for COVID reasons, or because they just don’t want to leave family members, or because they have any other reason, it’s the athlete’s choice, and I’m happy to see that athletes now have that option. If you want to opt in and you want to play, that’s your choice as well and, by all means, do that.

What more do you think the WNBA can do to support their Black athletes and important movements like Black Lives Matters?

I think it’s important that they listen. Listen to what the players want to do. Listen to the ideas that the players have. A lot of the players in the WNBA are not new to taking a stand. We’re not new to making a statement. So now the league needs to listen and follow the players’ lead.

Historically, the WNBA is a pretty progressive league. A lot of players fight on the forefront of different social issues and, this time around, players are sacrificing their craft for change. Why do you think that is?

I think Candace Parker is the one who told me that we’re the majority of the minority in the WNBA. The league is 80% minority and, when it comes to sexual orientation, we have a lot of players in the LGBTQ community. So, we are the majority of the minority. I think understanding that and living that in our everyday lives makes us, as players, more vocal — it inspires us to take a bigger stand.

When you were making the decision to opt out, did you have any concerns that you would lose some of your platform by not playing?

Absolutely. Every time I went on an interview that was the first question they would ask me. I understand what Caron Butler meant when he said that there is a difference between ‘former athlete’ and ‘current athlete.’ When you walk into a room, people look at you and talk to you differently if you are a current athlete than if you are a former athlete. I understand that and I’m fine with it because if I lose my basketball platform, it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my voice.

Why do you think it’s important for athletes in particular, whether former or current, to speak out about social injustices? 

I think that now everything should be generational in the sense that you don’t want the next generation to have as many hashtags as our generation has. You don’t want the next generation to have to deal with the politics that we have to deal with. You don’t want the next generation to go to school and not learn a part of their history. Everything we do now should focus on that. Athletes aren’t just tasked with being role models, we are tasked with helping the next generation. People inside the bubble are going to use their platform just as people outside the bubble are going to. It’s important that we continue thinking of the next generation.

You started the Renee Montgomery Foundation and recently held a celebration of Juneteenth. Can you tell us more about your foundation and your fundraising efforts? 

The mission statement of my foundation is to spread positivity and to teach people using skills I learned in sports — i.e. confidence, teamwork, discipline. My foundation is an extension of me. I took my foundation’s mission of spreading positivity and I went out and showed how I can be a good teammate. By deciding to opt out of the WNBA season because I felt that it was the best decision for me, I showed how to be confident.

For Juneteenth, I wanted to throw a feel-good event because there has been a lot of sadness recently. We just watched these murders on TV. I was thinking about what holidays were coming up and Juneteenth seemed perfect. I realized, though, that a lot of people don’t even know what Juneteenth is. I named my event, “What is Juneteenth?” Not only was it a pop-up block party celebration, but it was also an educational process. Everyone knows about the Emancipation Proclamation. A lot of people don’t know that all of the slaves weren’t freed until two years later. So, not only was the event a party and we had fun, but a lot of people left understanding more.

There is a lot going on right now, but what is next for you in terms of basketball and your foundation?

I’m not going to play in the WNBA because the season is so time consuming, but I will still be working and doing different things. That doesn’t mean that I’m only going to be working on social reform. You might see me on TV calling a game or you might see me on TV talking about social reform. I’m still going to be involved in basketball while also helping push the movement forward.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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