The WNBA announced its plan this week to start the 2020 season in Florida, where all 12 teams will take part in a 22-game regular season at the IMG Academy. The season is expected to start in late July, but not all the details have been ironed out yet. Similar to the NBA, though, some players are having reservations about returning to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent protests across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department.
Last Friday, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving held a call with about 80 NBA and WNBA players, where they all voiced their concerns and opinions about going back to "business as usual" while people are on the streets fighting for racial equality. Some NBA players have toyed with the idea of sitting out the remainder of the season to focus their efforts back into their communities to fight for change, though no one has officially announced they would opt-out of the Orlando restart just yet.
In the WNBA, though, one player has already committed to sitting out the 2020 season when the league heads to Florida in July. Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon that she will not be playing in the upcoming season in an effort to focus on social justice reform.
"After much thought, I've decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season," Montgomery said. "There's work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn't going to happen overnight, but I do feel that now is the time and moments equal momentum. Let's keep it going!"
Montgomery has always been vocal on social media in the fight for racial equality and recently took part in a panel that featured other WNBA stars and former NBA player Caron Butler to lead an open conversation about the social unrest taking place across the United States, and ways in which people can help. Her nonprofit foundation, the Renee Montgomery Foundation, has raised money to help protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement, and focuses on making a positive impact on young kids through sports.
"While I am saddened Renee will not be in a Dream uniform this summer, I am incredibly proud of her passion for her foundation, her outreach in the community and her chance to impact the Black Lives Matter movement with her platform as a WNBA athlete," head coach Nicki Collen said in a statement. "As a coach in this league I understand that I can't just say we are "bigger than ball" but rather I must embody it."
In two seasons with the Dream, Montgomery has averaged 9.9 points and 3.2 assists while starting in 68 games. The Dream finished last season with an 8-26 record, which was the worst record in the league, but made solid moves in the offseason by acquiring Courtney Williams from the Connecticut Sun in a three-team trade. They got significantly younger after franchise cornerstone Angel McCoughtry left in free agency to sign with the Las Vegas Aces. Montgomery was projected to be the starting point guard for Atlanta, but with her deciding to sit out, the Dream will have to turn to its youth to fill her shoes.