OPINION: WNBA or NBA? It’s Time To Break The Stigma

OPED BY RION A. RODIE

With COVID-19 forcing North America into a pandemic, it’s been a gloomy couple of months for the sports world in 2020. As the virus began sweeping through the continent, many sports organizations, like the NBA and WNBA, either just about to kick-off their season or were already halfway through. Patiently waiting for a solution as a basketball jock, it seemed like we weren’t going to resume the season – until Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA came up with the idea of having isolated ‘bubbles’ for their teams. It seemed to be a great plan.

Then I came across a CBC article headlined ‘Bed Bugs, mouse traps, worms: WNBA players reveal ‘bubble’ living conditions.’ There were glaring differences between how the WNBA is handled compared to the NBA.  It intrigued me to to find out more – why is there such a stark difference in the way players from the two leagues are treated, and why isn’t it drawing more attention?

Basketball fans around North America have never been a fan of the WNBA or women playing basketball in general. It’s not uncommon to find a lot of online or offline insults, hate, and sexist comments directed towards players, whether they’re playing recreationally in community gyms, or in the WNBA.

 The minimal coverage that sports media outlets also give to WNBA games is frustrating and discouraging to the league. It’s clear that support for these athletes is a joke – and it’s time to change that narrative.

My 13-year-old sister plays basketball with aspirations to hopefully go pro one day. But she’s worried that she won’t be able to pursue her basketball career without having to work a second job. Rookie salaries start at $62,000 over a 2 to 3 year span – compare that to the NBA rookie salary, which on average can range from over $1m to $8m USD. [SK2] The WNBA isn’t as respected at the level that the NBA is on, and it’s not even close. It’s discouraging to not only my sister but to female basketball players around the world.

Skylar Diggins is a current WNBA player for The Phoenix Mercury. In an interview with Bleacher Report in the summer of 2018,[SK3]  she says: “I’m at a loss for word sometimes, talking about this. It’s unfortunate that men make more money for the same amount of work or even less work.”

It’s no disguise. [SK4] With only a few player endorsements deals in the league going around, the recognition for this association is staggeringly low. While the WNBA consistently praises the NBA players for their work, these women get bashed. What’s worse, is that it’s no secret.

Recent events indicate that the NBA players increasingly lack genuine passion for the game. It often seems to be more about who can sign the biggest contract and/or which players can put on the best pre-game fashion show. With superstar players like Russel Westbrook and James Harden, for example, their bold wardrobes at times speak louder then their actual skills on the court. The WNBA, meanwhile, has focused on what basketball is all about: Team spirit and passion for the game. With women making considerably less than their male counterparts, they have no choice but to play for their love of the game.

Whether you’re a male or female – the mechanics of the game are the same. The work you need to put in is equal. The process of getting into the pros is identical. As a true basketball fan, I know how skilled these athletes are: They are genuine arts of their craft. Gender should never be the determining factor if you obtain the necessary skills to play in basketball or in any sport. Now, more than ever before, there needs to be equal respect and recognition of both the NBA and WNBA. For my sister and for girls like her around the world. 

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