The WNBA Is Underway … And Still Under Appreciated
In case you haven’t heard, the WNBA is back for its 14th season. There were a few interesting story lines leading up to the tip-off on May 15. First, Marion Jones made headlines by signing with the Tulsa Shock. Everyone waited with baited breath to see how the former Olympic track star would perform. At 34, Jones hadn’t touched a basketball since playing point guard for North Carolina in college. And while her she was key part of the 1994 NCAA women’s basketball championship team for UNC, her debut for the Shock was far less than spectacular. Much to the disappointment of WNBA executives, the excitement surrounding the story quickly fizzled out. Those individuals who tuned in to see Jones play won’t be coming back for more.
Then Condoleezza Rice made headlines for admitting that she’s a WNBA fan. Some bloggers considered this confession to be on par with Elena Kagan’s admission of watching women’s softball. The underlying suspicion is that both of these women are gay, simply because they enjoy watching women’s sports. That’s about as good of an argument as Christian Newswire’s claim that Ellen ruined American Idol simply because she’s a lesbian. Rice’s endorsement of the WNBA was nice gesture, but unfortunately it caused more rumors about her sexuality than anything else.
The fact is that despite the preseason buzz, the WNBA is still having trouble attracting diehard fans. The league is struggling to stay afloat, as it has since its inception. Many of the franchises throughout the league remain unprofitable, which is why so many have shut down and relocated elsewhere. Some teams have even gone as far as pimping themselves out by wearing sponsor logos on their jerseys for extra cash. It’s a creative marketing scheme, but it also looks rather desperate. There are other ways that the WNBA can make money. For starters, the league needs to stop alienating its lesbian fan base and start marketing to them instead. Like it or not, the WNBA attracts a large amount of lesbian fans. Why not embrace this fact instead of running from it?
The WNBA slogan this year is “basketball is basketball.” If the league truly believes this, then they wouldn’t care about keeping lesbian ballers in the background. If basketball is basketball, and gender doesn’t matter, then sexuality shouldn’t matter, either. It’s about the love of the game, right? It’s about the beauty of the sport, isn’t it? Basketball is basketball, regardless of sexuality. After 14 years, you’d think the WNBA would have evolved enough to realize this.
Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, Lyndsey also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. Visit lyndseydarcangelo.com for more information.