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WNBA Team Co-Owned By Ex-Sen. Kelly Loeffler Is Sold After Players' Criticism

The WNBA franchise the Atlanta Dream, which had been co-owned by former U.S. Sen. Kelley Loeffler of Georgia, has been sold, the league announced Friday afternoon.

The three-member investor group which purchased the team includes former Dream player Renee Montgomery, making her the first retired player to become both an owner and a WNBA executive.

The other owners are Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair, two executives from the Massachusetts-based real estate firm Northland Investment Corp.

"With the unanimous WNBA and NBA [board] votes, today marks a new beginning for the Atlanta Dream organization and we are very pleased to welcome Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair to the WNBA," Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

"I am also thrilled that former WNBA star Renee Montgomery will be joining the ownership group as an investor and executive for the team. Renee is a trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond," Englebert added.

The sale of the Dream had been anticipated for some time. Current players, many of them Black, for months had publicly criticized Loeffler for her attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement.

News of the sale was met with praise on social media.

The official Dream Twitter account posted an image of Montgomery in her team uniform along with the quote: "My dream has come true. Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously."

NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers congratulated Montgomery on social media.

"So proud of this Queen. This is everything we are about! #Morethananathlete."

Montgomery, a former point guard who won two WNBA championships during her years with the Minnesota Lynx, thanked Engelbert, the league commissioner, for her help. Montgomery added: "It's emotional over here because I prayed and worked hard for this."

Prior to the sale being finalized, some of the current Atlanta Dream players openly campaigned for Loeffler's Democratic opponent in her 2020 Georgia senate race, Rev. Raphael Warnock, who eventually went on to defeat her in a closely watched runoff last month.

The Women's National Basketball Players Association tweeted in July two words: "E-N-O-U-G-H! O-U-T!"

It was in response to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about Loeffler's objections to the league honoring the Black Lives Matter movement on the court and on players' warm-up uniforms.

As NPR reported at the time, Loeffler, a Republican who is a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, told WNBA that closely aligning itself with the Black Lives Matter movement "undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion."

"The truth is, we need less—not more politics in sports," Loeffler added. "In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote. And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports."

Englebert issued a statement rebuffing Loeffler, saying the league, its teams and players "will continue to vigorously advocate for social justice."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.