Groundbreaking Women Athletes On and Off Their Venue
African American sprinter Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics. She overcame the loss of strength in her left leg and foot, caused by polio at five years old, to become the fasted woman in the world at the 1960 Olympics. She still holds the record for the 100 meters at 11.2 seconds and 200 meters at 22.9 seconds.
Rudolph gained international recognition during the 1960 Olympics because of worldwide television coverage and became an iconic figure for black and female athletes. During the peak of the civil rights movement, Rudolph was a trailblazer for the rights of African Americans and women. She broke the gender barrier of all-male events in track and field, and her legacy lives on today.
Billie Jean King
Former World No. 1 professional tennis player Billie Jean King is regarded as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles. An advocate for gender equality and social justice. She campaigned for equal pay when the Open Era began in 1968. She became the first female athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money in 1971, but inequalities continued. Today, King is still a primary advocate for women and LGBTQ equality.
Aly Raisman is a two-time Olympic gymnast. In 2012, she won the team gold medal, floor gold medal, and bronze medal on balance beam. She took home the individual all-around silver medal and floor silver medal in 2016, as well as another team gold medal.
As decorated as Raisman is on the gymnastics floor, she has become an advocate in the fight to end sexual abuse. Raisman was one of over 100 gymnasts who came forward to speak out against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Since Nassar’s trial, during which she delivered a blistering speech, she has used her platform to focus on fixing USA Gymnastics and justice for all victims of sexual abuse.
Alex Morgan is the co-captain for the United States Women’s Soccer Team and won her second consecutive FIFA World Cup championship in 2019. She debuted in the World Cup in 2011, where the team won silver. In 2012, Morgan recorded 28 goals and 21 assists to become the second American woman to score 20 goals and 20 assists in the same calendar year alongside Mia Hamm. She was also the sixth and youngest US player to score 20 goals in a single year. Since being named to the senior US team in 2019, Morgan has accumulated 169 caps and 107 goals. She was also one of the first women’s soccer players to appear on the cover of a FIFA video game. Off the field, Morgan is part of the US soccer women fighting for equal pay.
Megan Rapinoe is a co-captain of the USWNT (United States Women’s National Soccer Team) alongside Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. She helped the US to its second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup championship in 2019, scoring six goals for the Golden Boot and Golden Ball Awards. She was also on the 2015 team that won the Cup, as well as the 2012 Olympic team, which took home gold.
Rapinoe has made noise both on and off the field. She is an advocate for numerous LGBTQ organizations and often uses her platform to speak out against social injustice. She is also an advocate for women in sports and equality.
Renee Montgomery is a retired American basketball player and sports broadcaster who is currently vice president, part-owner, and investor of the Atlanta Dream. During her 11-year playing career in the Women’s National Basketball Association, she won two championships with the Minnesota Lynx. During her college playing career, she won a national championship with the UConn Huskies.
In 2018, Montgomery signed a multi-year contract with the Atlanta Dream, and In June 2020, Montgomery announced that she would forgo the 2020 WNBA season due to concerns of racism and the coronavirus. In February 2021, she announced her retirement from the WNBA and Montgomery was part of a three-member investor group that was approved to purchase the Atlanta Dream.
The ownership change followed pressure on former owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican and former U.S. Senator who angered WNBA players with her opposition to the league’s racial justice initiatives, to sell her share of the Dream. Loeffler had previously refused a visit with Montgomery on social justice initiatives.