WNBA star Renee Montgomery on leaving basketball to fight for social change

Montgomery announced in June 2020 that she would sit out the season to put her energy toward the movement for racial equality. In February 2021, she announced her official retirement from the league.
7:45 | 03/31/21

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Transcript for WNBA star Renee Montgomery on leaving basketball to fight for social change
Say his name! Atlanta was turned up. Atlanta was protesting. Atlanta was upset. Say his name! George Floyd! We stand today because of breonna Taylor! There was a sort of political awakening. A multi-racial coalition of conscience poured out into American streets. I was literally looking outside of my window at people upset, at first just started out bringing water. And I wanted to do more and more. Then I felt like, how could I do more if I was half in and half out? So I made a decision to just be all in. After much thought, I've decided to opt out of the 2020 wnba there's work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. I do feel that now is the time, and moments equal momentum. Moments equal momentum, what did you mean by that I meant, look, the protests, that's adding moments and adding to the momentum. Everybody thinks you've got to do something amazing and you really don't. You just need to add your that could be a tweet that somebody reads. But everybody has a moment. What were some of your biggest reservations when you thought about sitting out the season? I've been playing basketball since I was like 5, you know? And it's a part of my being. Giving that up was tough. I didn't know where that next check was coming from. Across the board, professional fee mill athletes don't often make the same or even come close to what male athletes make. Yeah, it was a scary situation in that aspect. But honestly, I just took a leap of faith. Reporter: Renee joined a long line of female athlete activists who have spoken up, from track and field stars to tennis star Naomi Osaka to fellow basketball players Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes. I think what you were hearing is these are not usual times. Reporter: The wnba as a league also led the way. In July dedicating the entire 2020 season to social justice issues, honoring the black lives matter movement, and the say her name campaign. In a controversial move, then dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler opposed the plan. The conservative millionaire Republican was an appointed U.S. Senator and faced an upcoming election in November. She's a law and order conservative who backs the blue. Reporter: She wrote to the wnba commissioner saying, the lives of each and every African-American matter, and there's no debating the fact that there is no place for racism in our country. However, I adamantly oppose the black lives matter political movement. I believe it is totally disaligned with the values and goals of the wnba and the Atlanta dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion. The wnba has embraced the black lives matter political organization, this is a very divisive organization based on marxist principles. Who didn't have your back, and it was something that I was very critical of, was Kelly Loeffler. This is a woman that signed your checks, okay? Yeah. What did you make of what she said? If you felt that way, why didn't you just say something earlier? We know that you're running as a Republican senator. For you not to be with black lives matter, well, I mean, half our league, majority of our league, is the black and brown community. Why are you writing the letter now? Reporter: Renee responded with an open letter of her own. Your comments hurt deeply because it was a veiled all lives matter response, and you're speaking from a position of immense influence as a team co-owner in our league and as a U.S. Senator. You offered an opportunity for a conversation. Yeah. Did she ever take you up on that offer? She did not. Reporter: We reached out to Loeffler through the dream and her organization, greater Georgia, and received no response. I mean, everybody's seen what happened with Colin Kaepernick, so what was your level of concern that something like that might happen to you as well? Pretty high. You're going head to head with your boss. That's never a good idea. Reporter: The stakes couldn't have been higher. Loeffler was fighting for her senate seat against a field that included political newcomer reverend Raphael Warnock. The balance of the senate would depend on the senate races in Georgia and Renee was in the fight, urging voters to make their voices heard. Vote strong, vote informed, and remember the 3rd of You can hit them where it hurts by hitting them in the voting booths. There was nothing short of our democracy at stake. Reporter: By early August, wnba players across the league, led by Seattle storm's sue bird and the dream's Elizabeth Williams, were throwing their support behind reverend Warnock, sending clear message they would not remain silent. They vetted senator Warnock and found out what he was then they liked it. Then they wore the shirts. They emerged with those t-shirts to say "Vote Warnock." But in a real sense, while they were supporting me, it was much bigger than me. It was about them raise raising their voices as athletes who knew that this was a defining moment. The wnba players amplifying their voices did a lot to make sure that we had the outcomes that we had in November and in January. History in Georgia. Thank you so very much. I am going to the senate to work for all of Georgia. Reporter: Record voter turnout, thanks to early voting, drop boxes, mail-in ballots, and grassroots campaigns, helped I make all the difference. This was national news. The wnba has a place in history. Elections have consequences. This is the new south. This is the emerging American electorate unfolding before our very eyes. Reporter: But in the wake of the 2020 election Georgia passed new legislation overhauling election laws that Republican supporters say improves voting security and efficiency. It expands early voting. It actually puts drop boxes into the law for the first time ever. Reporter: Opponents argue the new laws make it harder for people of color and those who are low-income to vote. What we're witnessing in Georgia and all across the country is politicians who are trying to turn our democracy on its head so that rather than the voters picking the politicians, the politicians get to pick their voters. And we have to stand up in this moment. I think a lot of people try to put politics even to the side and be, oh, I'm not into politics, I don't get into it. But politics is all the way into us. Politics is scared of us.- Reporter: And as for Renee, she continues to pile up her moments. As a studio analyst for Atlanta hawks games and part owner of a fan-controlled football team. And while she may have wiped away tears as she announced her retirement as a player on her podcast -- Dear basketball. I shouldn't be crying over you. Because we're still going to be together. But let's just keep this momentum going. Reporter: Renee's biggest move came in February. Former senator Kelly Loeffler selling her interest in the Atlanta dream to a group that included Renee Montgomery. So what's next? What's next is not letting what happened in 2020 just be that little moment. It needs to be a movement now. Let's continue what we started. Because we're doing something. Something's happening.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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