Category Archives: WNBA

Milwaukee Bucks boycott playoff game, halting sports for racial justice

By Pershelle Rohrer

September 8, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a second-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

Milwaukee Bucks players refused to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic on August 26 in response to the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23. Their actions led to widespread boycotts throughout the NBA and across the sports world.

Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by a police officer while entering his vehicle, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down (Cohen, 2020). Three of Blake’s six children were inside the vehicle at the time of the shooting. Videos of the shooting quickly went viral on social media, and athletes quickly used their platforms to speak out against racial injustice.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard and National Basketball Players’ Association President Chris Paul sent a message of support to Blake and his family following the Thunder’s Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets, encouraging people to register to vote (Cohen, 2020). Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James asked, “Why does it always have to get to the point where we see the guns firing?” (“Inside the hectic,” 2020, para. 3). Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, the son of a police officer, said, “We keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back” (para. 5).

Bringing attention to social injustice and police brutality in America has been the ultimate goal for NBA players in the bubble since the killing of George Floyd in May. The shooting of Blake reawakened the players’ anger, and teams began to consider boycotting their playoff games in order to raise awareness. The Toronto Raptors were the first to discuss a boycott, considering skipping the opening game of their second-round series against the Boston Celtics scheduled for August 27 (Cohen, 2020).

The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to boycott their game on August 26, participating in pregame warm-ups and media sessions before ultimately deciding not to play shortly before tipoff. Instead, the team participated in a Zoom call with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and attorney general Josh Kaul (“Inside the hectic,” 2020). Milwaukee is about 40 miles north of Kenosha, where Jacob Blake was shot.

Barnes said, “They just wanted to know what they could do. I mean, they were very interested in a call to action. They wanted something tangible that they could do in the short and long term. They wanted the walkout to be Step 1” (“Inside the hectic, 2020, para. 19).

The Bucks emerged from the locker room after over three hours, speaking to the media about their decision not to play. The Rockets and Thunder planned to follow the Bucks’ lead by boycotting their game, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers discussed doing the same. The NBA ultimately postponed all playoff games for that evening and the following day (Owens, 2020). 

A quote from an ESPN article reflects on the events of the day: “The Bucks didn’t expect to be the thread that caused the NBA to unravel, one player said. But that thread had been fraying for awhile” (“Inside the hectic, 2020, paras. 10-11).

The NBA boycott also led to postponements of matches in the WNBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, and even tennis (“Inside the hectic,” 2020). 

NBA analyst Kenny Smith walked off the set of Inside the NBA in response to the boycott, saying, “And for me . . . as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight” (McCarriston, 2020, para. 15). Eleven-time NBA champion and civil rights activist Bill Russell praised Smith’s actions. “I am so proud of you. Keep getting in good trouble,” he said (Bieler, 2020, para. 24). 

Many athletes expressed their support for the boycott on Twitter, including San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.

CBS Sports writer Shanna McCarriston (2020) recognized that the statement was four years to the day from Colin Kaepernick’s first national anthem demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since January 1, 2017, just over five months after he began protesting (Guerrero, 2020). 

NPR’s Scott Simon recognized how far protests in sports have come since then. “This week really seemed to be a breaking point. And how did we get from Colin Kaepernick being considered an outcast not long ago to major league sports joining national campaigns of protest?” (Goldman, 2020, para. 10).

Players from all 13 teams remaining in Orlando’s NBA bubble met in the evening on August 26 to determine whether or not to continue the season. Before the NBA restart, Avery Bradley and Kyrie Irving argued for ending the season in order to prevent distraction from social justice issues following the death of George Floyd (“Inside the hectic,” 2020). The Lakers and Clippers voted to end the season, but the other 11 teams decided to continue and use their platforms in the bubble to promote racial equality.

Former University of Maryland basketball star and Harvard Law School graduate Len Elmore recognized the tangible change that the players have the opportunity to create. “Now they have started to take some action, recognizing the frustration that every person of color should be experiencing and certainly that they are experiencing. It’s a watershed moment,” Elmore said on Glenn Clark Radio (Gold, 2020, para. 3). He wished the boycott would have lasted longer due to his belief that the initial restart distracted from the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He said, “I would like to see the thing last a lot longer. I thought the resumption of play would be a distraction and it wouldn’t change anything and we are kind of seeing that play out now” (para. 15).

Bucks guard George Hill shared Elmore’s concerns. On August 24, he said, “I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are” (Owens, 2020, para. 12).

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman (2020) pointed out that the players ended their strike before they met with the owners about social justice issues, writing “Obviously, players lost leverage with that order of events. But owners have shown they’re at least willing to do what’s necessary to present the league as aligned with social justice, and the strike necessitated a greater showing” (para. 1). 

Despite losing some of that leverage, the NBA and NBPA released a joint statement announcing tangible actions that will be enacted in order to support the movement. They established a social justice coalition to address issues such as voting, civic engagement, and police and criminal justice reform. NBA arenas will be used as voting locations for the 2020 general election. Lastly, the league will raise awareness for voting and civic engagement through advertisements for the remainder of the NBA playoffs (Feldman, 2020).

Chris Sheridan (2020) wrote that, “NBA players agreed to resume their season in a bubble in part because they believed their platform to push for social change could best be achieved through having their message seen and heard on every game telecast” (para. 21). They are finding concrete ways to take action as a result of the boycott, especially by encouraging people to vote. LeBron James established his More Than a Vote initiative in June to help fight voter suppression, and the NBA and NBPA agreement helps create “a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID” (Feldman, 2020, para. 7).

The NBA players accomplished their overall goal: they brought attention to another instance of police brutality and helped make Jacob Blake a household name. On August 27, Andy Nesbitt (2020) wrote, “They are keeping Jacob Blake’s name at the top of all conversations and they are doing their part to bring justice for a man who was shot seven times in the back” (para. 8). The boycott reminded fans of the injustices that were brought to the forefront of American life in May when Floyd was killed and showed the importance of the messages written on the players’ jerseys. The players look to continue using their platforms to promote racial equality and the importance of voting in November.

References

Bieler, D. (2020, August 27). Bill Russell led an NBA boycott in 1961. Now he’s saluting others for ‘getting in good trouble.’ Boston.com. https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-celtics/2020/08/27/bill-russell-nba-boycott

Cohen, K. (2020, August 26). The day the games stopped: A timeline since Jacob Blake was shot in the back. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29748584/the-day-games-stopped-line-jacob-blake-was-shot-back

evanderkane_9. (2020, August 26). Major statement by the NBA players I’m with it! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/evanderkane_9/status/1298729342994874369?s=20

Feldman, D. (2020, August 28). NBA and players establish social-justice coalition, agree to promote voting. NBC Sports. https://nba.nbcsports.com/2020/08/28/nba-and-players-establish-social-justice-coalition-agree-to-promote-voting/

Gold, J. (2020, August 31). Former UMD basketball star: NBA boycott should’ve lasted longer. 247Sports.https://247sports.com/college/maryland/Article/Len-Elmore-talks-about-social-injustice-in-the-NBA-Maryland-basketball-150909738/

Goldman, T. (2020, August 29). Week in sports: Players strike in solidarity with protests for racial justice. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/29/907384544/week-in-sports-players-strike-in-solidarity-with-protests-for-racial-justice

Guerrero, J.C. (2020, August 29). Timeline: Colin Kaepernick’s journey from San Francisco 49ers star to kneeling to protest racial injustice. ABC7 News. https://abc7news.com/colin-kaepernick-kneeling-when-did-first-kneel-date-what-does-do-now/4147237/

Inside the hectic hours around a historic NBA boycott. (2020, August 27). ESPN. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29750724/inside-hectic-hours-historic-nba-boycott

Mathieu_Era. (2020, August 26). FED UP. Ain’t enough money in world to keep overlooking true issues that effect the mind body & soul of what we do. We cannot be happy for self when our communities are suffering & innocent folk are dying.. since George Floyd, there have been at least 20 other police shootings. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Mathieu_Era/status/1298719311066853376?s=20

McCarriston, S. (2020, August 27). NBA boycott: LeBron James, other stars react to players’ decision not to take court for playoff games. CBS Sports. https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-boycott-lebron-james-other-stars-react-to-players-decision-not-to-take-court-for-playoff-games/

naomiosaka. (2020, August 26). [Naomi Osaka statement boycotting tennis match] [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/naomiosaka/status/1298785716487548928?s=20

Nesbitt, A. (2020, August 27). The Milwaukee Bucks’ boycott should be celebrated forever. USA Today.https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ftw/2020/08/27/milwaukee-bucks-boycott-celebrated/5642172002/

Owens, J. (2020, August 26). NBA playoff games postponed Wednesday after Bucks strike in wake of Jacob Blake shooting. Yahoo! Sports. https://sports.yahoo.com/bucks-players-dont-take-court-for-tipoff-vs-magic-amid-discussions-of-nba-player-boycott-201058529.html

RealBillRussell. (2020, August 26). I’m moved by all the @NBA players for standing up for what is right. To my man @TheJetOnTNT I would like to say Thank you for what you did to show your support for the players. I am so proud of you. Keep getting in good trouble. @NBAonTNT @ESPNNBA @espn #NBAPlayoffs [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell/status/1298762120394182657?s=20

Sheridan, C. (2020, August 27). NBA players’ boycott is unprecedented, but 1961 and 1964 offered previews. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrissheridan/2020/08/27/nba-boycott-is-unprecedented-but-one-almost-happened-in-1964-and-one-did-happen-in-1961/#621b0bd67ef2

SportsCenter. (2020, August 26). “As a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight.” Kenny Smith walked off the set of Inside the NBA in solidarity with the players’ boycott. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1298752425608785927?s=20

SportsCenter. (2020, August 26). “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.” Sterling Brown and George Hill read a prepared statement from the Milwaukee Bucks players. (via @malika_andrews).

 [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1298764348819673088?s=20

TheTraeYoung. (2020, August 26). Proud to be apart of this League… even more today ! WE WANT CHANGE[Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/TheTraeYoung/status/1298732388332081152?s=20

WNBA. (2020, August 26). United. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/WNBA/status/1298792243772428288?s=20

What to Watch During (and after*) Quarantine

By Griffin Olah

Submitted: April 16, 2020/Published: June 2, 2020

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

[*Editor’s Note: With apologies to Griffin Olah and readers of Maxwell Media Watch, this insightful entry was submitted during a semester when everything suddenly went online. I should have published it earlier, but hopefully it still provides useful tips for media alternatives to live sporting events in the meantime. N. Spencer].

If you’re anything like me, you miss sports. With COVID-19 shutting down every sports league (we’ll ignore Dana White’s “fighting island”), I need something to quench my thirst for more sports. Luckily, there are quite a few alternatives that can get us all through quarantine while not spending a fortune.

One of the first things I discovered, with the help of Twitter, was the massive MLB library on YouTube. That’s right, Major League Baseball stores broadcasts on both its own YouTube channel, MLB, and on another, the MLB Vault (Langs et. al, 2020). This allows you to go back to see any memorable game in MLB history that has aired on television. Personally, I’ve enjoyed myself watching Game 7 of the 2016 World Series (the game ended with the rain delay), the 2017 Indians winning streak and the wildly entertaining 2019 Home Run Derby match-up between Joc Pederson and Vlad Guerrero Jr. There’s enough there to spend entire days watching baseball, and maybe you’ll even find some hidden gems that you forgot happened.

The NFL has a similar vault of games, but they house it in its own website, NFL Game Pass. Although it usually requires a subscription, the NFL made Game Pass free to all users through May 31, 2020 (NFL.com, 2020). Game Pass has an archive of all games played since the 2009 season, from preseason all the way through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. It also has access to many of NFL Network’s series, including A Football Life, America’s Game, SoundFX and more. I’ve spent a lot of time watching old Browns replays, including the 2018 game against the New York Jets that debuted Baker Mayfield, the 2009 game against the Chiefs that Jerome Harrison played out of his mind, and the America’s Game episode of the 2009 Saints. 

If you aren’t against spending money, however, the ever-popular ESPN+ might be for you. For only $5 a month, you can have access to a massive library of ESPN shows, replays and films. ESPN has streaming deals with many collegiate sports conferences, the NHL, UFC and boxing organizations, allowing many past games and competitions on their platform. I’ve spent hours in the 30 for 30 library and watching old UFC fights featuring Stipe Miocic. If you’re still bored and you want some non-sport action to watch, ESPN+ also can be bundled with Disney Plus and Hulu for $12.99 a month. 

If live action is what you’re craving, however, then eSports might fill that void for you. At the forefront of eSports is NASCAR, with its iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Using real drivers on iRacing, a platform most already use for practice, NASCAR is simulating the missed events of their season (Nicholson, 2020). The simulated races are also aired on Fox, so NASCAR fans can watch just like any other race.

Going along with eSports, the MLB has taken initiative with its MLB The Show Player’s League. Each team has selected one player to represent them through a series of three-inning games on the popular video game franchise (Toribio, 2020). Each player streams their games on their own Twitch page, which works similar to YouTube, so you can hear their commentary in real time. Cincinnati Red pitcher Amir Garrett and Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo have already proven to be both wildly entertaining to watch and incredibly good at the game. I’ve watched some highlights, and I’ll be tuning in whenever Garrett and Gallo take the virtual field again.

Finally, the NBA has attempted to offer another alternative with live action- a HORSE tournament. Current and former NBA and WNBA stars are pitted against each other in the classic basketball game in each of their home gyms (Gartland, 2020). While reception has mostly been negative, with many people claiming the games are too boring or citing internet problems, basketball fans may still be enjoyed. I haven’t tuned into any of the matchups, but if you’re starved for some basketball, it might be right for you. The competitions do air live on ESPN, so anyone interested in watching will have to tune in in real time.

Obviously, there is no true alternative to live sports action, but we can come close. Whether replays are your thing or not, there are tons of options to watch until we get sports back, whenever that may be. Until then, take a look through all of these services and find your favorite, or maybe find something new that’s not discussed here. Either way, good luck with filling your sports void and I hope these can get us all through until the return of sports.

References

Gartland, D. (2020, April 13). ESPN’s NBA HORSE competition was tough to watch. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2020/04/13/espn-nba-horse-tournament-highlights

Langs, S., Simon, A., Randhawa, M., & Catania, J. (2020, March 14). One classic game to watch online from each MLB team. MLB.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/news/classic-mlb-games-to-watch-online

NFL.com. (2020, March 18). NFL offers fans free access to NFL Game Pass. NFL.com. Retrieved from: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001106855/article/nfl-offers-fans-free-access-to-nfl-game-pass

Nicholson, J. (2020, March 18). NASCAR launches eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. eSports Insider. Retrieved from: https://esportsinsider.com/2020/03/enascar-iracing-pro-invitational-series/

Toribio, J. (2020, April 10). 30 stars to compete in ‘MLB The Show’ league. MLB.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/news/30-stars-compete-in-mlb-the-show-players-league

The WNBA’s Low Pay in the Age of Social Media

By Bre Moorer

For the past couple of months, WNBA stars have been more outspoken than usual about the pay gap.  Or maybe they have always shared their thoughts, but did not get as much attention as they are getting now.  It could be because they can just type their thoughts out in 140 characters or less and simply hit a button that shows their message to millions of people.  That has been an option for years, but why are the fed up women of the professional basketball league seemingly being heard now more than ever?  With the help of social media, specifically Twitter, the low salaries in the WNBA are back in the spotlight this summer, but this time it feels different.

To get the discussion started this time around, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings appeared on ESPN’s Get Up on May 28th to address the issue with Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle.  Jalen directed his frustration toward the NBA by saying they need to do a better job of “dedicating resources to help promote” the women’s league since the WNBA is a “subsidiary of the NBA.”  While Diggins-Smith did not flat out agree with Jalen’s point about the NBA being responsible for WNBA players not getting paid as much, she did bring up the fact that “it’s all about exposure.”  In the same breath, the fearless leader of the Dallas Wings also mentioned social platforms should be better utilized.  She recommended showing more games on Twitter.  The South Bend legend’s comments inspired her peers to express themselves without regret.

In the wake of LeBron James signing a 4-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for a whopping $153.3 million, rookie sensation A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces took to Twitter to “congratulate” King James.

While some Twitter users backed Wilson, most users bombarded the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft with reasons as to why they think she should get back in her lane.  One person said ratings are too low for the women hoopers to get more money, to which Wilson responded it is more than just viewings.  A couple of users tweeted that if she was as good as LeBron, then she would earn more.  The power forward laughed at those tweets for the most part, but she did say to one troll that bench players in the NBA get paid more than starters in the WNBA – eliminating the arguments that the pay gap is about skill set.  Perhaps the most popular argument against the WNBA getting paid more is the NBA bringing in more revenue than the WNBA.  The 2017 NCAA champion had a response for that too.  She said that the NBA gets more of a percentage of the revenue they bring in than the women so it is still unfair regardless of how much revenue is brought in.  Wilson spent a whole weekend defeating Internet trolls in the beginning of July. She ended her run by hoping that the men in her mentions had daughters who want to play basketball so that they can grasp where she is coming from.  She was “glad to stir the pot.”

This past weekend, NBA superstar Damian Lillard watched A’ja Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun work.  He was obviously impressed by what he saw and backed Wilson’s call for equal pay.  By the end of the game, a video of Lillard revealing his thoughts on the lack of respect WNBA players get was trending on Twitter.

In Lillard’s opinion, the women as individuals should be treated as the pros they are as far as salaries go and their league deserves to be exalted.  Having someone like Damian Lillard, who is a 3-time NBA All-Star, could start a trend of NBA players speaking up in support of WNBA players getting paid more.

After all is said and done, the WNBA is in need of support and exposure in order for its players to get what they deserve in the first place – more money.  As long as the women continue to use their platforms and their male counterparts actively show their love for the WNBA, the future looks bright for equal pay between the NBA and WNBA.

Dear Maya

Dear Maya,

Thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration. It goes deeper than basketball. I could talk all day about your career accolades. The rings, the stats, the awards. I could go on for days about it. But you already know that. As one of my favorite athletes, you have always captivated me with your abilities on the court. You represent something much more than basketball to me.

You’re hope. I think one of the most impactful things I’ve ever experienced was a sport and gender class last year. I learned so much more about the plight of the woman athlete. It was truly eye-opening, but it also made me more conscious than ever about what people say. I see the nasty things people say on message boards and comments. The Internet provides people the space to do so anonymously and without consequence. Yet you press on. It’s bigger than that.

I see the impact of representation. Your Jordan commercial was something to behold. The wave of kids you inspired from using your platform in such a way is uniquely special. Count myself in as well. I see visions of a world being shaped by our current-day athletes that will allow me to tell my children they can do anything. That nothing can hold them back. As athletes, whether you think it’s fair, you all have an enormous reach. I want to thank you for being a great role model.

I wrote an article a while back [See: “Why can’t I buy a WNBA jersey?” on this site]. I was griping about not being able to purchase your jersey that day. I should have been a bit more patient as the next day it was available on the team store. However, I am a man of my word. Today, I’ll be rocking one of my favorite player’s threads seeing her play for the first time in person. Please try not to give out too many buckets today against the Sky. They are still my hometown team.

You’re a walking legend. On and off the court. And for that, I thank you.

Sincerely,

Don Collins

WNBA Attendance and Ratings Drop

by Angeline Seames

With it being the 20th Anniversary of the WNBA, the program is targeting a new branding effort. A drop in viewership and the lowest attendance rate since the beginning of the WNBA.

The WNBA had an average 7,318 fans a game, which is down 3.4 percent from last season and the lowest in the leagues history. Not only did attendance watching the game live fall, but viewership also fell by 14 percent (an average of 202,000 viewers). ESPN and ESPN 2 aired 11 games during the regular season, while NBA TV televised over 40 games and the rest covered by ABC.  Over the past the years the WNBA attendance has had its ups and downs starting off in 1997 with 9,662 average of attendance and then a 12.4 percent increase of 10,864 average attendance, which was the highest ever in the WNBA in 1998.

Compared to the NBA, TV this season increased 8 percent to a an average of 56,000 viewers from the 52,000 last season. Media wise, WNBA.com grew by 26 percent, Instagram followers were up 51 percent and 9 million likes and followers across all social media.

The biggest drop in the WNBA was made by the San Antonio Stars, with an 8-26 record in the WNBA and a 37 percent drop in attendance compared to last year. With this the Stars were forced to relocate because of the team’s home court being renovated. While the Phoenix Mercury led attendance for the WNBA with an average of 9,946 despite not having the biggest increase in attendance compared to the L.A. Sparks.

As the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team has come off multiple championship seasons, the WNBA and the head of business operations for the Mercury hope to build momentum and make fans want to attend all the games that the WNBA host. The WNBA hopes after the postseason in October to study whether they can eventually grow the league to bring in an expansion committee.

In the end, the WNBA will have to figure out how they are going to save the league from the drop of attendance and viewership all together. If not, the WNBA may have fewer teams playing, increased ticket prices, and the threat of doing away with the WNBA all together. Hopefully the WNBA will figure out a smart way to increase the WNBA brand all together and save the league.

 

Diana Taurasi’s Decision: What It Means For The WNBA

This piece is written by Alexx Klein. She was a journalism major at Indiana U with a sport marketing and management concentration. Currently she serves as the Athletic Communications GA where she is the primary SID for cross country and swim/dive. Previously, she worked as the media relations intern in the IU athletic department, as well as the PR intern for the Washington Mystics. This summer she will further continue her WNBA experience and serve as the PR intern for the Indianapolis Fever. 

By Alexx Klein

February 9, 2015

While it may not have been at the top of the average sports fan’s radar, the Diana Taurasi decision was one that holds significant impact for the future of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). This blog is not meant to criticize or condone the WNBA’s highest-paid player’s decision, but rather to voice my concern for what this means moving forward.

To backtrack, Taurasi recently announced that she would be sitting out the entirety of the 2015 WNBA season to focus on herself, her family and honing her basketball skills. How she will be able to do that is because her Russian team she plays for in the off season offered to pay her more to sit out than she would make playing in the WNBA this season.

Taurasi wrote a letter to the Mercury fans and in it, stated that, “The year-round nature of women’s basketball takes its toll and the financial opportunity with my team in Russia would have been irresponsible to turn down. They offered to pay me to rest and I’ve decided to take them up on it. I want to be able to take care of myself and my family when I am done playing” (Taurasi, 2015).

It is the culture within the WNBA for athletes to play overseas during the winter because of the short WNBA season (four months). Taurasi’s team is UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she is making about $1.5 million, according to a Washington Post article. Her salary with the Phoenix Mercury amounts to just less than $107,000 a year, which is less than the league maximum available.

So what can be done?

ESPN’s Kate Fagan suggested a restructuring of salaries within the league. In the 2014 season, there were about 40 players receiving close to the league max, which breaks down to 3-4 “max” players on each team and if anybody has watched a WNBA game you know that is definitely not the case. Fagan’s article suggests that there should only be 12 players in the league to receive that type of money: one on each team.

If the NBA doesn’t pay Cleanthony Early (a mediocre, at best, player for the Knicks who very few have heard of) the same as Lebron James, then why pay average WNBA players the same as its stars? Yet that’s what the league chooses to do.

She also goes as far to say that the highest paid member of the team should not be the coach, it should be the player, like it is in most other professional leagues. You’d be hard pressed to find a sport where the coach makes over twice the salary as his/her players do.

If Taurasi’s decision to sit sparks other WNBA stars into following her lead, then the league needs to implement a solution sooner than later. Other players have been offered money by their overseas team to sit out the WNBA season, Taurasi is just the first to take the deal.

Without the Taurasi’s, Britney Griner’s, Elena Della Donne’s, Skylar Diggins’ and Maya Moore’s of the league, the WNBA loses a large chunk of its entertainment value and that is where the downward slope would begin. Without fans to consume the product, there is no revenue coming in from ticket sales, apparel or concessions, and with only half of the teams currently turning a profit, the league cannot afford to take such a financial hit. As stated by a Deadspin article, if the players “begin to make decisions based solely on finances, there may not be any players left” (Draper, 2015, para 11).

Is this simply an issue of money or do you think the athletes are actually concerned about their long-term health? Is it right for a coach to be making two or three times more than these star athletes in the league? Do you think the salary reallocation proposed by Kate Fagan is a good solution?

References:

Boren, C. (2015, Feb. 4). Diana Taurasi’s decision to skip this season is sobering message for WNBA. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/02/04/diana-taurasis-decision-to-skip-this-season-is-sobering-message-for-wnba/

Draper, K. (2015, Feb. 3). Diana Taurasi’s Russian Team Is Paying Her To Skip The WNBA Season. Dead Spin. Retrieved from http://deadspin.com/diana-taurasis-russian-team-is-paying-her-to-skip-the-w-1683643165

Fagan, K. (2015, Feb. 4). Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out should spark WNBA salary changes. ESPNW. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/12272036/diana-taurasi-decision-sit-spark-wnba-salary-changes

Taurasi, D. (2015, Feb. 3). Diana Taurasi’s Open Letter To Phoenix Mercury Fans. Arizona Republic. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/wnba/mercury/2015/02/03/diana-taurasi-open-letter-to-phoenix-mercury-fans/22808453/

 

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Attacked in China

By Savannah Malnar

Random attacks on athletes are thankfully uncommon, but unfortunately on November 3rd WNBA star Brittney Griner was subject to one. Griner is currently playing for the Beijing Great Wall team who plays within the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association. It is her second season in that league. WNBA players commonly go to play for foreign leagues during the offseason to play to stay conditioned and to earn a higher salary.

Griner and her teammates were leaving practice at a gym located in a city called Shenyang where they had a game scheduled the following day. As they were walking towards the bus, a man who had been walking down the street yelling charged them with a knife. The women rushed to the bus but the man also managed to get into the bus and cornered them into the back. Griner said she did not understand anything he was saying, but later her teammates said he was shouting things about how they had supposedly hit his wife and how he was going to kill them. Without reason, the man eventually left the bus without causing any serious harm to the women and later the police apprehended him and took him to a mental institution.

Due to the lack of information immediately following the event, this created a lot of speculation as to the reason the man went after Griner and her teammates. Some people even suggested he was a fan who was outraged because Griner was taking a spot on the team that perhaps another Chinese-born player could have taken.

Griner soon utilized the sport media to eliminate any speculation about the event. She released a long statement giving the full story from her perspective through ESPNW and that allowed other media outlets to provide the public with a much more detailed account of the incident.

Griner’s team decided to play the game the next day and won. Grimer only suffered a very shallow cut on her elbow and her other teammate was sore due to the man attempting to stab her (the two jackets she was wearing protected her).

Through all of this, Griner remained optimistic and lighthearted. In her statement she even joked about how the man damaged her favorite Nike jacket. She also said “The thing I keep reminding myself is that the incident seemed to be random — we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”