The league is young but has been a catalyst to influence generations of women’s basketball players since the late 1990s.
The WNBA’s inaugural season was in 1997 with Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes, and Cynthia Cooper as its stars. Cooper was the league’s first-ever Most Valuable Player in that season. The league’s campaign slogan was “We Got Next” to show that professional women basketball players are on the rise.
21 years later, there are players like Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, and Candace Parker who hold the mantle of being the stars of the league. The newest campaign slogan for the league is, “Watch Me Work,” a phrase that expresses the sentiment that these players are here to stay and want the public to pay attention to what they are doing on the hardwood.
Since its inception, the general consensus surrounding the league has been mixed. There are people who support the game and want to see women’s basketball grow while others do not see the importance of the league in society.
The platform that these women have, shows young girls who play basketball or other sports that they can make it to the professional level. The platform that they have also allowed them to speak up on social issues that affect everyone, from police brutality to LGBTQ rights.
What they do in local communities and how they impact others has to warrant respect and views from people of the league.
But that is not the case to some. When the players speak up about issues that they want to be addressed and fixed within the league like the increase in pay, many are quick to tell them that their game is boring and they don’t deserve as much money like the NBA players.
Recently, Las Vegas Aces’ rookie standout A’ja Wilson tweeted her reaction about LeBron James’ new four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers which compared drastically to WNBA players’ contracts and salaries. Wilson’s tweet sparked an ongoing conversation about the pay gap between the two leagues.
The difference between the NBA and WNBA is the amount of the pie that the players receive. NBA players receive about 50% of the league’s revenue while the WNBA players receive under 25% of the league’s revenue according to Forbes.
One thing that should change so that players are substantially compensated is that piece of the pie that they receive. In order for players to receive a bigger piece of the pie, there has to be more generated promotion for the league and content on platforms along with attendance at games.
The WNBA does have a television deal with ESPN and this season alone, viewership has been rising.
Through the first three games that were broadcasted on ESPN2, the audience was up 58 percent in comparison to the first three games that were broadcasted in 2017. The three games this season on ESPN also earned a 26 percent viewership gain over the first four games that were shown on ESPN and ESPN2 in 2017.
The statistics show that people are watching the WNBA. The main thing that is needed for more viewership for the league is the coverage of the league and the players. Though games are broadcasted on ESPN and also NBATV, the media has to do a completely better job in covering the league and giving shine to the players.
It seems like the league is an afterthought to mainstream media.
For example, the WNBA All-Stars were announced on Tuesday, July 17th on Sportscenter. They did the bare minimum in announcing them on air. They just threw up the graphic of the players who made it and only spoke on it for a few seconds. Even on the graphic itself, the logo for the New York Liberty was actually the logo for Liberty University next to Tina Charles’ name. This a notable misstep that was shown on air and shows that it wasn’t checked before it was put on the air.
There should have been a longer segment about the All-Star game to give more promotion for the league so that they can garner views.
The issue with people throwing those phrases, “No one watches the WNBA,” and “Go back into the kitchen,” is that it comes from many men who are ignorant to the fact that there are women who are talented and work their butts off on the hardwood.
Women are perceived as lesser than men already and with people making a mockery of these professional players, jokes over facts is very prevalent especially on social media. Women’s basketball is very fundamental yet people do not care about that. The naysayers say the league play is not flashy like its counterpart and the players are not talented.
Actually, these women are as talented as their male counterparts. So far this season, Diana Taurasi broke the all-time scoring record and was the first to cross 8,000 points, Liz Cambage scored a league record 53 points, and Rebekkah Brunson became the all-time rebound leader with 3,317 rebounds.
Many of the players in the NBA also continue to voice and show their support for the league. Kobe Bryant has been a constant supporter for the league. Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan have been on record saying that WNBA players “deserve a lot more respect.”
If your favorite NBA players support their counterparts, why don’t you?
The WNBA is progressing in a strong direction as they continue to grow. The product on the floor continues to make history and be valuable.
Watch games on television and league pass. WNBA League Pass is only $17. Before one judges, he or she should not just pay attention to the clips but watch the full games and see how competitive these women are.
“Watch them Work.”