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Jun 08, 2021

Opinion: Why we bought the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream

By Suzanne Abair, Renee Montgomery, and Larry Gottesdiener


In 2020, The Atlanta Dream altered the course of history while navigating a pandemic and professional sports in a bubble, presenting an awe-inspiring profile in courage to the nation and the world. We invested in The Dream to support, protect, and honor the fearless legacy of these elite athletes.


The Dream franchise will be stewarded by two highly accomplished women, Dream President Suzanne Abair and Vice President Renee Montgomery.


Suzanne is a tireless, unflappable leader, who balances business acumen with integrity and heart. As President and COO of Northland, Suzanne transformed the firm’s corporate culture, ensuring that employees are heard, valued, and respected. In her work as Director of YW Boston, Suzanne championed an organization with the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity. Suzanne’s professional and personal experiences are directly aligned with the values of the WNBA.


Renee’s accomplishments are well-known: WNBA All Star, two-time WNBA Champion, Sixth Woman of the Year. What is not as well known are the risks that she took to set aside her income and a lifetime of work to support social justice, voting reform, and her adopted community: The ATL. Renee is genuine, passionate, thoughtful, and unwaveringly positive. The Renee Montgomery Foundation – Moments Equal Momentum – is championing the rebirth of Morris Brown College, among other important local causes.


And Larry? Larry’s love of women’s sports began decades ago watching as his gritty first-born daughter, already an accomplished track star, joined the boys’ wrestling team because her high school did not have a girls’ team. And his love of hoops? Well Larry is a “Whaler” from New London, Connecticut, a historic basketball program that most recently produced Kris Dunn of the Atlanta Hawks. And of course, his passion for women’s hoops was cemented when his home state university, UConn, captured the nation’s attention during the undefeated season of 1996, led by Hall of Famer, Rebecca Lobo.


Over the last 25 years, we followed (or, in Renee’s case, played in) the WNBA with a growing respect for this unabashedly progressive league. The “W” survived and thrived in the face of many of the same systemic barriers – access, investment, infrastructure, representation – that entrench inequities within our society. In the summer of 2020, we witnessed the players of The Dream express their pain, advocate for social justice, and speak truth to power. We were inspired by their refusal to “just shut up and dribble,” and by the professional and personal risks they took endorsing the ex-Atlanta Dream owner’s opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock.


On January 5th, we watched as The Dream’s activism was pivotal in changing the balance of power in our government. We embraced the euphoria that ensued, until the next day when insurrectionists stormed our Capitol and attempted to subvert our democracy. We felt compelled to take a stand to amplify the message of the Atlanta Dream and promote change and social justice. We called WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to inquire whether the WNBA had a deep-pocketed and like-minded owner-investor ready to close before the start of the historic 25th season.


We articulated our vision of a long-term commitment to the team, the city of Atlanta, and the league. As Cathy shared her own infectious excitement for the future of the league, she encouraged us to pursue our interest in The Dream with a clear message that the upfront investment would be significant, a long-term horizon critical, and a progressive culture, essential. In a bit of a whirlwind, we closed two months later.


So, what is our mission? Our mission is to create the flagship franchise in the WNBA, to respect our players as athletes and people, to give back to the community, and to build an organization that honors the legacy of our name – The Atlanta Dream – by rising to meet the fierce urgency of now.


What about “The Game?” Women’s hoops is an extraordinary blend of speed, skill, and grit. The 2021 Dream is loaded with incredible talent. Equally impressive, though, is the professionalism with which the players have embraced us and their passion to create a championship culture.


To our current and future players, to the legions of worldwide Dream fans, to the city of Atlanta we say: We are here to elevate, win, inspire, and captivate. Together. We are excited about this journey, and we are in it for the long run.


Suzanne Abair, Renee Montgomery and Larry Gottesdiener are owners of The Atlanta Dream.