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.