Getting paid to play professional sport is the epitome of the American dream. But the Atlanta Dream players have shown they are willing to sacrifice everything when they defied Conservative calls to just “shut up and dribble,” as forward Monique Billings put it.
And because of this singular position, they became the catalyst to elect Reverend Raphael Warnock as Georgia’s very first black senator.
The Atlanta Dream went on to receive the ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year award for exemplifying its bravery during that tumultuous year.
Receiving the award in New York was very rewarding for the players.
“Oh, yeah, that was awesome. It’s truly an honor, ”said team captain Elizabeth Williams.
Williams said the team hadn’t become an awards campaigner, “but it was just cool to be recognized and to shine the spotlight on what the players have been up to. So it was just a really great feeling.
The award proved that sport and politics are closely linked in America. The Dream not only supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but challenged its former boss, the ex-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who publicly lambasted the Black Lives Matter movement.
Players believed Loeffler was using them as political soccer balls to flirt with his right-wing base in the hotly contested election last summer.
With Loeffler out of office, supporters and players convinced Loeffler to sell the team to a new group of owners.
“You deserve it so much because you’ve been so impressive – on and off the pitch,” Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) said at an awards show at a recent Dream game. “From your tireless commitment to fighting for justice to working to protect the right to vote, so that people can have their voices heard in our democracy. The Atlanta Dream lives up to its name as the Dreamer’s hometown team.
The Atlanta Dream received a $ 100,000 grant for the Humanity Award from ESPN. They chose to donate the money to the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan effort to register and civically engage Georgians, defend civil and human rights, and advance justice on behalf of historically marginalized communities.
Billings hopes the award and recognition resonated with the next generation of impressionable girls.
“I am truly honored to be with my teammates, my sisters, and I have a lot of gratitude that the work we do on and off the field is recognized,” said Billings. “And that we’re just doing something positive, inspiring people, you know, for the young girls watching us. I hope we can inspire them to make their voices heard and to use the power they have. And yes, continue to shine. So it was really honored to be up there with my teammates. “
Another great gift that finally came out of the political turmoil of 2020: Former Dream player and WNBA champion Renee Montgomery was able to retire and immediately become part owner of the team she had just played for.
For Williams, seeing the positives that emerged from the social wreckage of a year ago makes their position all the more interesting.
“It’s about not being afraid to speak up and how important it is and trusting the people around you,” said Williams. “I think that was the most important thing for me because I don’t usually speak a lot, but I felt like in those moments it was important for me to do it.”
Billings agreed with her teammate’s feelings.
“I’m just going to stand up for what I believe in,” she said. “Because if you stand up for what you believe in, you won’t fall for anything. I’m big on it.