It’s been one week since the WNBA playoffs began, yet media coverage has not focused on the first round games. Instead, discussions have turned to the WNBA’s finances and future. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has become the focus of discussions as he admitted that the WNBA has not been the success the league had hoped it would become.
Lindsay Adler of BuzzFeedNews made waves when she tweeted two quotes from the commissioner:
As we’ve mentioned before on this site, WNBA salaries are still capped very low and that often forces players go overseas during their offseason. As a result, the WNBA is now facing a potential talent drain. For top athletes, women’s basketball in China pays far more than they can make in the WNBA. It was not a good sign when Diana Taurasi, one of the league’s best players, opted to sit out an entire season in order to play exclusively in Russia.
Unfortunately, raising salaries is not very easy with the WNBA’s current level of popularity. The league has had several issues with revenue in general and executives are not sure where the additional funds would come from.
Adler’s full post on BuzzFeed.com featured several more excerpts from Silver’s interview at Sports Business Journal’s Game Changers conference in New York City. Silver openly admitted that the league has not done a good job at presenting a “narrative” in their WNBA marketing. “The players look at the marketing, at the arena and it doesn’t feel authentic to them,” says Silver.
“We have, on occasion, sold the WNBA too much as a cause,” said WNBA President Laurel Richie. This is often the case; women’s basketball is sold as something that’s inherently undesirable to audiences. In fact, “women’s basketball” is sold as “women’s basketball”, instead of just “basketball”. We get very few highlight reels of dominating athletes, we get very few feuds, the coverage feels impersonal. If the league management cannot feel excited about their product, what message does that send to players and audiences?
The bottom line is simple: it is not a good sign that Silver’s comments garnered almost as much coverage as the WNBA playoffs themselves. Hopefully, the WNBA can find their narratives soon, because the league cannot sustain very many more years of tepid enthusiasm.
The WNA playoffs will continue this week with the Indiana Fever against the Chicago Sky on Monday (September 21) at 8 PM eastern.
This is game three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Chicago Sky managed to take the lead in game one, but Indiana overcame MVP Elena Delle Donne to force a final match-up in this best of three series.
Indiana’s Power Forward Tamika Catchings scored 22 points on Saturday night in their victory over the Sky. Indiana’s guards Shavonte Zellous helped out, adding double digits on offense. Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky recorded 19 points, but her efforts were not quite enough. You can see their next game on NBA TV.
Also – Thursday, September 24, the Western Conference Finals will begin. The Phoenix Mercury will face off against either the Minnesota Lynx of the Los Angeles Sparks. You can watch this game on ESPN2 at 9 PM eastern.
[Photo via WNBA.com]