Whether you agree or disagree with this remark made during the second presidential debate, there is no denying that gender disparities and issues impacting women are real.
In 2012, it is tough for me to believe that we are still talking about equal pay, and trying to figure out how men and women can have it all.
Yes, I think it is possible for women to have it all; and the organization that comes to mind that is striving to make this notion a reality is the WNBA.
The women of the WNBA are businesswomen, professional athletes, partners, mothers, and role models who for 16 seasons have been championing for gender equality.
Never mind binders full of women, the WNBA has something even better – basketball courts full of women.
Last night, the league concluded its 16th season and crowned the Indiana Fever the 2012 WNBA Champions.
Earlier this year, I wrote that the Fever are writing women’s basketball’s next chapter. At the time I had no idea they would win it all. In fact, no one did. On second thought, maybe the Fever’s star forward and 12-year veteran, Tamika Catchings, knew that they would.
On the court Catchings’ resume includes an NCAA Championship at the University of Tennessee, three gold medals, five Defensive Player of the Year awards (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2012), and the 2011 MVP of the WNBA. Off the court, she is the Founder and President of the Catch the Stars Foundation, and her aspirations after basketball include becoming a general manager.
If you ask Catchings if she has it at all, my guess is that she would yes; and not because she finally won a WNBA Championship and was named the MVP of the 2012 WNBA Finals. It is because she is humble and grateful for everything single gift and opportunity that comes her way. Not to mention, she loves her job and describes it as going to gym class for a living.
Catchings’ point of view in large part represents her colleagues, but if the women of the WNBA had a wish list it would probably include increased revenue and fan attendance. In the world of professional sports having it all not only means loving what you do, it also calls for making money and gaining fan support while doing it.
These are areas where the league is gradually gaining traction. In 2011, three of the 12 franchises (Minnesota, San Antonio, and Connecticut) posted a profit, and the league signed its first marquee partner in Boost Mobile.
While the league was not pleased with its overall 2012 attendance numbers, it experienced sell-out crowds (18,000+) in Game 3 and Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. During the WNBA Finals press conference, President Laurel Richie commented that the league intends to form strategic alliances with organizations that share their values, fan base, or potential fan base with the goal of building strong and sustainable attendance.
To gain a fan’s perspective on this topic, I spoke to a Fever faithful, Thomas Armstrong, from Indianapolis who told me that he has been supporting the team since their inception.
He remembers the days when roughly 5000 people came to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to watch the Fever play. “Everyone knew everybody. Now I’ve noticed that the crowd is larger. More guys and young fellas are coming to the games,” said Armstrong.
When I asked him what it would take for more sports fans to support the WNBA, he looked dead in my eyes and said, “More people like you reporting and talking about it.”
Thomas Armstrong from Indianapolis, Indiana, I heard your loud and clear. Here are highlights from the 2012 WNBA Season, basketball courts full of women…
- Game 2 of the WNBA Finals between the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx on October 17 was the most viewed and highest rated WNBA Playoff game on ESPN since 1999. The previous record is the 1999 WNBA Western Conference Finals (Houston Comets vs. Los Angeles Sparks) that had 1,052,000 viewers and 1.1 household rating. Overall, the game generated 778,000 viewers and .6 household rating, according to Nielsen. Game 2 peaked with 1,011,000 viewers (9:15 – 9:30 pm ET) and .8 rating (9:30 – 9:45 pm ET).
- The WNBA Draft Lottery drew 700,000 viewers, appearing for the first time on ESPN’s signature show SportsCenter.
- Within 48 hours of the WNBA Draft Lottery, the Phoenix Mercury has sold over 150 season tickets.
- Season Ticket Renewals (across the league) for 2013 are already up 10% versus this time last year.
- In 2012, partial plan ticket sales increased by 6% and group ticket sales increased by 7%.
- During the 2012 season, team sponsorships increased by 10%.
- Boost Mobile completed its first full season as the WNBA’s league-wide partner. The wireless providerpresented the 2012 Draft, Performance Awards, Playoffs, and the Championship.
- Anheuser‑Busch and SAP joined the WNBA as two new sponsors.
- Finish Line, Inc., a national retailer of athletic shoes, apparel and accessories, will be the Indiana Fever’s marquee sponsor beginning in 2013. This jersey sponsorship will be the sixth of its kind in the WNBA, joining the Phoenix Mercury (LifeLock, Inc.), New York Liberty (Foxwoods Resort Casino), Seattle Storm (Bing), Los Angeles Sparks (Farmers Insurance Group), and Washington Mystics (Inova Health System).
Good Night Sports Fans,