Renee Montgomery on the WNBA's role in the social justice movement

The former WNBA star spoke with Yahoo Sports senior NBA insider Chris Haynes as part of Verizon's Next20 series about the next generation of sports activism and how some of women's basketball's biggest names have long played a part in bringing attention to social justice.

Video Transcript

CHRIS HAYNES: I want to ask you about your role and what you did. You didn't play in the 2020 season WNBA. And you felt like there was things at home that you needed to accomplish and get done. But what role does the WNBA, yourself, and the NBA for that matter, what role do they have in trying to move this movement forward in a positive direction?

RENEE MONTGOMERY: Well, I mean the imprint was felt, I think, by all leagues. Even starting with the WNBA, you know in 2016 we talked about it. We were wearing shirts in 2016 that said Black Lives Matter and it didn't get received well at all.

You know, the security walked out on us. We didn't have anybody policing our games. People were that upset because they didn't understand what we were talking about. And we were just protesting police brutality and racism, but it's so ingrained into our society that people thought we were boycotting America. We were never doing that.

So then people started to write us and tell us all kinds of things like, you know what? I can't support you guys anymore, because I have family in the military or I have a brother that's a cop. And we're like, we do too. And so we had to get past that initial push of people just assuming what something meant. Like, as soon as we started to wear the shirts and speak out, people just felt attacked. They didn't know if what we were saying was going to hit them. And so that was an eye-opener.

And then you fast-forward, that happened in 2016, that very same year after our WNBA season, Colin Kaepernick took a knee. That same year. That all happened in 2016.

And then fast-forward to 2020 now, and like you said, it's a whole movement going on. And I'm not saying that we started the movement, I'm saying I'm happy that there's growth. In the beginning, people wouldn't even accept us saying the words Black Lives Matter. It was just unacceptable. The WNBA didn't accept it. We got fined for it. And then now in 2020, our season was dedicated to social justice. So I think sports has a role in changing public perception.