The Gateway Center Arena in suburban Atlanta had the feel of a team being awarded its trophy after completing its title quest the year before. And, from a political perspective, that is exactly what took place. 

The Atlanta Dream figuratively hoisted Sen. Raphael Warnock on its shoulders while the throngs thundered with their approval inside the arena in College Park on Saturday, August 21, 2021. The team played a major role in helping Warnock change the political paradigm in Georgia as the first elected Black senator in the state’s history. 

The halftime presentation during the game against the Phoenix Mercury was rich with symbolism and social significance. Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta — where both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther King Sr. were once pastors — became the embodiment of MLK’s “Dream” when he defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler during a contentious runoff for the Senate seat in January 2021.  

It is appropriate that the team is called the Dream as they became more than athletes and entertainers when the women employed an unprecedented and audacious move in the summer of 2020. The players put their careers and livelihoods on the line by publicly endorsing Loeffler’s opponent (Warnock) because she bitterly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, despite the fact that she owned the Dream in 2020. 

The occasion was made even more special as former Atlanta Dream star Renee Montgomery has since become the co-owner and vice president of the team. Montgomery and team captain Elizabeth Williams presented Warnock with a special jersey to commemorate his momentous and historic achievement. 

 “I’m so proud of these ladies standing up. They weren’t trying to bring any attention to themselves,” Warnock said as he saluted the players following the halftime ceremony. “They were just trying to use their platform to create a country that is more inclusive, more just (and) more equal. 

“And this was a real act of courage for them to place the signs on their jerseys. And there were those who were trying to silence their voices,” he added. “They refused to be silent. They demonstrated their commitment, their courage. And here we are a year later, Renee (Montgomery) is the co-owner of this team. And the black boy who grew up in the housing projects is now a U.S. senator.”

Warnock was not alone in saluting the Dream players. The players were lauded for widely lauded for their efforts by fans and prominent figures nationwide. And because of their collective valor, the Dream was bestowed the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year at ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards in July 2021 — one year after the team took a stance that changed the course of history. 

Atlanta Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery, Sen. Raphael Warnock, and Dream team captain Elizabeth Williams. (Photo Credit: Terry Shropshire)