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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 31, 2021 12:37am-1:05am PDT

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, she had a dream. the wnba standing up against racial injustice. why renee montgomery left the league to become a star activist. >> say his name! >> george floyd! >> how could i do more if i was half in and half out? i made a decision to be all in. >> calling out a co-owner, helping turn the tide of an election. >> while they were supporting me, it was much bigger than me. plus, tumbling queens. the black athletes breaking the mold, redefining how a gymnast should look and perform. >> i've been called ghetto, ratchet. like, this is not gymnastics. >> shape is the future of their
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♪ thanks for joining us. tonight, professional athletes taking a stand against police brutality and
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fr wa ttev on the line.el >> 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 season. 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.
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>> 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 moment. 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
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players maya moore and tiffany has ta 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
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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?
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>> 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. loefflerassenate s feat againstt included political newcomer reverend raphael warn sk.ocenat 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 november. >> 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
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and the dream's elizabeth williams, were throwing their support behind riveverend warno, sending clear message they would not remain silent. >> they vetted senator warnock and found out what he was running on. 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 weadn veer and in january. >> history in georgia. >> thank you so very much. voti, drop boxes, mail-in ballots, and grassroots campaigns, helped i
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make all the difference. >> this was national news. >> 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 acrosshe t poli 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
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politics, i don't get into it. but politics is all the way into 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. >> our thanks to jamel. coming up, the gymnasts
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prepaid card when you upgrade. switch today. changing the face of elite gymnastics. the young black athletes standing on the shoulders of so many who came before them. tumbling and powering their way through their sport and celebrating their culture. here's abc's kenneth moton. >> the sport of gymnastics is very much seen as a very rigid sport. for generations it promoted a russian balletic, classical body
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type. that's who was dominating the sport of gymnastics. >> reporter: three-time olympian dominique barrier becoming the first black gymnast to win a gold medal. >> if you came into the sport like i did in the '80s, bow legs and muscular physique, you were penalized for something you were born with. if you were going to try to express yourself, trust me, you were deducted for that. it's a subjective support, it's a political sport. i lived a childhood in the sport of gymnastics in so much fear, in so much intimidation. >> dominique dawes -- >> reporter: 1996, 19-year-old dawes stepped onto the floor of the usa gymnastics national championships. >> that was a little bit more of a classical routine, which is not my strong suit. we chose that because that was playing to the judges. it's not playing to my fans. >> reporter: dawes, who won a bronze medal at the olympics for
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the same routine. >> never in my wildest dreams would i see hip-hop, pop, soul music used at the olympic games. however, it's something i believe could be on the horizon. >> before i go on, i shut everything off. except for which of my 18 personalities do i want to be today? and i prent, a step onto the floor. ♪ ♪ it's the floor exercise, but it's a stage to me. i'm reaching potentially millions of people. >> reporter: more than 15 million, to be exact. ucla gymnast markzeta frazier and nia davis going viral with floor exercises celebrating black culture.
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markzeta joining rhythm nation. ♪ ♪ >> reporter: nia throwing up a fist to kendrick. >> we started with kendrick lamar because he's a huge activist in his music and i wanted to try to bring the same message through dance, gymnastics. >> your routines are born out of what was happening in society? >> i had shoulder surgery in june. that's around the time when all the protests were happening. so i definitely wanted to create a floor routine that was a reflection of what was going on and how i was impacted. the title of this routine, i wanted to call it "the culture." i'm like, how do i bring so much of the black culture in 1:30? >> when people see your routines, i think there's a surprise element about it. because they're like, oh my god, they did that. and the word "audacity" comes up. like, who gave you permission?
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did you give it to yourself? >> i've definitely given myself the audacity to do these floor routines that best suit me. but i would say, ucla gymnastics gave me the opening. r years, the ucla gymnastics program has championed and embraced each athlete's personality. in 2019, caylen ohashi's broke the internet. >> the gymnasts having the courage to express their true selves and choose music that they grew up with is a huge step, when gymnastics is such a cutthroat, very strict sport. >> i've been doing gymnastics since i was 4 years old. it has its highs and definitely has its lows. taught me so many life lessons that made me stronger as a black woman. for me, the biggest thing was hair. my hair was always natural for me through most of my career. my hair was always sticking up or it was always poofy. and my teammates always, can i
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touch it? >> you're in a white-dominated sport, you're a couple of black girls who said, i'm going to come up here, change the game. was it tough? >> being a black woman in general, you always know that you have to raise the bar for yourself. higher than most. to get half as far as your white counterparts. >> i've been called ghetto, ratchet, like, this is not gymnastics. and of course, why is this black excellence, and why does it have to be black excellence, why does it have to be color? to say, you don't see color means you don't see me, you don't see me fully. >> how do you shake it off? >> to shake it off you have to let it on you first. growing up, the style of my gymnasties, it was always very, very strong. the other girls would get elegant, poised, artistic, graceful. >> is there a little sadness to
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it? >> it stings a little. but what's most important is that i know that i'm graceful and beautiful. and those are just other people's opinions. and it is a subjective sport that i did sign up for. >> reporter: while markzeta and nia rock the world of collegial gymnastics, others are speaking up on a range of issues. simone biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, using her platform to push for equality. >> i love the fact that simone biles can be as outspoken and truthful as she is today. i would say, keep it up. young athletes need to see people that are not going to be controlled by the system. >> we do need to break the rigidity of the sport of gymnastics. we need to learn to embrace people's differences. embrace the messages that them to put out. also embracing different body types. i cannot wait for a day in the sport of gymnastics where you're not deducted for something that
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you have absolutely no control over. >> reporter: the two college students are taking their activism further than their floor routines. they upgrade a black excellence meet hosted by ucla. >> to compete and feeling supported and loved for a matter that is serious to us and to the rest of society, it means everything. >> my message is to be your most authentic self. this was my most authentic self, this floor routine this hip-hop routine. i want everybody to be inspired to be their most authentic self. minuscule part of what they're - doing. that's simply the plate. the meal on top is the activism. it's the way we dance, it's the smiles we bring people. >> will you see what you're doing in the olympics? >> hopefully. i hope we have inspired somebody to go out there and do a hip-hop
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routine at the olympics. >> it's so much fun to watch, why wouldn't you want to see that on the biggest stage? >> and a programming note. "soul of a nation" airs next tuesday evening, 10/9 central, only on abc. up next, 250 different ways to say "welcome back." antibacterial or moisturizing body wash? definitely moisturizer! antibacterial can i have both? new dove care & protect body wash eliminates 99% of bacteria and moisturizes for hours two for one! can i keep it? new dove care & protect, zero compromise! want to brain better? can i keep it? unlike ordinary memory supplements— neuriva has clinically proven ingredients that fuel 5 indicators of brain performance. memory, focus, accuracy, learning, and concentration. try our new gummies for 30 days and see the difference. people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes are waking up to what's possible
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♪ finally tonight, the teachable moments. here's abc's david muir. >> reporter: in memphis, tennessee, hickory ridge elementary school, mr. jamieson had been doing it for years. 250 personalized handshakes. everyone is important. tonight that fifth grade teacher back at it, welcoming his students back with a socially distanced handshake. a unique one for each student. >> hello, david. >> reporter: mr. jamieson welcoming us to his classroom. >> i have a bunch of people with me. >> reporter: iniah johnson.
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payson glover. kimble atkins. antonio millbrooks. hassan roberts. each with their own greeting. and mr. jamieson on the reason why. >> i want to say this to all the sudents across the country. you are going to be the generation that's going to change the world. tap into that potential and be unapologetically human. >> uniquely you. that's "nightline." watch all our full episodes on hulu. see you back here at the same time tomorrow. thanks for staying up with us. good night, america.

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