WNBA, ESPN Extend Television Agreement, Announce Rebranding Initiative

Attachment-1- (2)

This story originally appeared on Forbes.com on 3/29/13.

On the heels of the 40th Anniversary of Title IX and USA Basketball’s London Olympics  gold medal performance, WNBA President, Laurel J. Richie, is capitalizing on women’s sports’ momentum by writing the WNBA’s next chapter.

Yesterday, Richie and John Skipper, President of ESPN, Inc. and Co-Chairman of the Disney Media Networks, announced that the WNBA and ESPN have extended their television agreement through 2022.

The new agreement expands the WNBA’spartnership with ESPN to 26 years, which dates back to the inaugural season in 1997. The network also announced up to 30 games will air yearly on ESPN Networks, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and WatchESPN.

“We think this is a propitious time to do this deal, and we are pleased with where the league is after 16 years,” said Skipper. “We think there is going to be continued development, and we want to be active participants in that development.”

While the financial terms of the deal were not revealed, the WNBA and ESPN agree that the partnership is a seminal business moment for women’s sports.

“We are putting a financial commitment of our time, commitment of our executives, and commitment of our company to continue to help grow women’s sports,” Skipper said. “We are thrilled with where the league is right now and how it is doing. I see appropriate ratings, and I see growth.”

During the conversation moderated by ESPN Anchor, Hannah Storm, the WNBA and ESPN revealed that the historic announcement emanated from discussions during ESPNW’s annual summit where both partners examined what they could do to push the league forward from a practical business standpoint.

“The ESPNW Summit was a groundbreaking day for us,” said Richie. “From the WNBA perspective, we left the summit and set on a course of reimaging the WNBA.”

Here are highlights of the rebranded WNBA:

The WNBA unveiled a new brand identity, which includes a new logo that capitalizes on the signature orange-and-oatmeal color scheme of the game ball. The league recognized that the original logo and did not reflect the diversity, athleticism, and the competitive nature of the current game. The cornerstone of the new WNBA visual identity is a more modern “Logowoman” – the silhouette within the logo.

The WNBA and adidas will introduce new uniforms for the 2014 season. Currently in development, the uniforms will reflect the diversity and athleticism of today’s high performing women’s basketball players.

Under the expanded agreement, ESPN and the WNBA are exploring a host of enhancements, all designed to give fans greater access and new perspectives on the game. The enhancements include special mini-cameras worn by referees during select games giving fans an officials’ take on the action; behind-the-scenes coverage of practices, shoot arounds, and locker rooms; and current and former NBA players serving as commentators and offering a player’s perspective of the women’s game.

Needless to say, it has been a busy and productive offseason for ESPN and the WNBA. Heading towards 2022, the partners visualize the league’s continued growth and success in the areas of attendance, television ratings, and commitment of sponsors. Together, they foresee an environment where women’s sports are dramatically more important in the sports landscape than they are today.

Click here for more information about the WNBA and ESPN partnership.

WNBA: Basketball Courts Full Of Women

Binders full of women.

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…

Television Ratings:

  • 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.

Ticket Sales:

 

  • 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%.

Sponsorships:

  • 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,

Alana

Jamba Juice And The WNBA: The Anatomy Of A Healthy Living Partnership

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com (October 11, 2012)

America is a sport obsessed nation.

In 2011, Americans watched 42,500 hours of live sporting events on national broadcast and cable television, a 5% increase from 2010. This time last year, 463,664,000

video streams took place on sports websites by 35 million consumers (Source: Nielsen’s State of the Media: 2011 Year in Sports).

Considering so many people are watching sports, it seems hardly plausible that more than one-third (35.7%) of adults in the United States are obese, and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents are obese (Source: Centers for Disease Control).

It wasn’t that long ago when we all wanted to “Be Like Mike.” Somewhere, somehow, we lost our way.

Who is to blame?

At this stage, we are well beyond the blame game. It is predicted that if Americans continue down the current unhealthy path more than half of the country could be obese by 2030 (Source: The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).

Now the conversation must shift toward solutions.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), in its 16th season is the longest running women’s professional basketball league in the United States, and the Jamba Juice Company (NASDAQ: JMBA), a leading healthy, active lifestyle company headquartered in Emeryville California, have pledged to become part of the solution.

For 20 plus years, Jamba Juice has been on a mission to simplify and improve healthy living. The company struggled during the early part of the recession with declining stock prices and profitability. However, after repositioning the brand, appointing new leadership, and implementing its Blend Plan 2.0, Jamba Juice has since experienced accelerated growth.

Last year, the company posted $226.4 million in revenue, and in August 2012 it reported a seventh consecutive quarter of system-wide store sales growth. Today, Jamba Juice operates 783 locations globally (305 company-owned/operated and 478 franchises); and over the course of the last 18 months, it has opened 30 stores in three international markets (South Korea, Canada, and the Philippines).

In 2010, the retailer expanded its reach into professional sports with a multi-year sponsorship deal with the WNBA. Recently, I spoke withJames D. White, Chairman, President, and CEO, and Julie S. Washington, Senior Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, who discussed Jamba Juice’s mission-driven brand, its vision to simplify healthy living, and its commitment to the WNBA.

Here are highlights from our conversation…

On Jamba Juice’s partnership with the WNBA…

White: I have been a passionate advocate for women across my career. For me, it is about leveling the playing field for women and making sure they get real opportunities. We are huge fans of the WNBA, one for the incredible family friendly entertainment, but more importantly the example it sets for young girls and young women. This is the one league where there is a significant number of women ownership, which we think is a big deal. I’d love to see many more people be exposed to the WNBA, its players, and the brand. We have had nothing short of exceptional experience with the teams, the league, and the leadership of the WNBA.

Washington: As you look at the WNBA, the entity, the respective teams and players, they are very community connected. Jamba is very much about a store in your community that then moves it from just being a retailer to being part of your life. When you look at the WNBA, their players are not just celebrities on the court. They are a part of the fan-base and the community in which they live. Here, we have players who are genuinely willing to be a part of the different opportunities, and they are great role models.

 

On Team Up for a Healthy America and the fight against childhood obesity…

Washington:Team Up is a grassroots social media campaign. When we talk about healthy living we wanted to make sure that we had a holistic approach to it. Team Up allows us to provide simple and fun solutions for kids in addition for adults. When you come to the website and pledge weekly in the program, we give fun but easy activities that allow people to form healthy habits. When you pledge, Jamba gives monetary donations, and in turn we have been able to buy equipment and items for schools. At the end of the day, what is our role and how can we have an impact on childhood obesity? We know that nutrition is important, which is a core part of Jamba.

On the relationship between corporate responsibility and healthy living….

White: We have been on a very clear path to inspire and simplify healthy living. As a corporation versus this being a campaign, it is who are. At the DNA level of our corporation, we have always been actively invested in our local communities. The investment has always been around youth sports, physical activity, and getting people engaged in creating a healthier lifestyle. It is very much part and parcel to who we are as a company.

 

On accomplishing goals and objectives with the WNBA Partnership…

White: We have and we wanted to accomplish three or four primary objectives. We wanted to expose the great fan base of the WNBA to the Jamba brand in as many ways as we could. That has been a great success so far in the partnership. We also wanted to capitalize on our common interest in kids and local communities.  We’ve found many ways to partner and impact the local communities that we do business in. Importantly, we had an objective to get to know some of the players and engage the women of the WNBA.

At the intersection of professional sports, business, and nutrition, you will find Jamba Juice and the WNBA promoting healthy living and “teaming up” to combat obesity. For more information about the fight against childhood obesity visit www.JambaJuice.com and www.WNBA.com.

How The WNBA Inspires A Generation Of Athletes

(Originally posted on Forbes.com on 9/18/2012)

The motto from the 2012 Olympic Games was Inspire a Generation. Last week, the WNBA carried that motto into its 2012 Inspiring Women Luncheon where the league honored Team USA’s female medalists with its WNBA Inspiration Award. 

The select group of athletes who represented Team USA included: Betsey Armstrong (Gold Medal, Water Polo),Tamika Catchings (Gold Medal, Basketball), Kayla Harrison (Gold Medal, Judo), Paige McPherson (Gold Medal, Taekwondo), Taylor Ritzel (Gold Medal, Rowing), Danielle Scott-Arruda(Silver Medal, Volleyball), Claressa Shields (Gold Medal, Boxing), Lauren Tamayo (Silver Medal, Cycling), Logan Maile Lei Tom (Silver Medal, Volleyball), and Venus Williams (Gold Medal, Tennis).

These distinguished women were honored, not just because of their athletic accomplishments, winning 58 of the 104 medals and 29 of the 46 gold medals, but for their determination, courage, and strength. They inspire us to reach higher and dream bigger, which unquestionably embodies the mission of the WNBA, showing the world what is possible.

“This team is a persuasive and powerful proof point of the impact of Title IX,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. “The breadth and depth of the events in which these women competed, and the compelling story of their journey to the Olympic stage is nothing short of inspiring. The women of Team USA are in my mind truly and unequivocally champions of achievement.”

Four-time Olympic gold medalist, Venus Williams, spoke on behalf of Team USA and graciously thanked the WNBA for the honor.

“Sports makes life better. It helps women become more successful and feel more confident. It is wonderful because young women do need role models, and young women need to know that they can achieve,” said Williams. “We are all here because we believe in women’s sports, we believe in women’s basketball, and we believe in women athletes.”

Yes, believing in women’s sports is what elevated women’s participation in Olympics events from 13% in 1964 to 44% in 2012.

Believing in women’s basketball is why the U.S. National Team has won five consecutive gold medals and 100 million girls and women worldwide play basketball.

Believing in women athletes is how two teenagers from Compton California began playing tennis simply because it was their dream, and now their careers are bigger than they ever imagined.

Nothing short of inspiring. 

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana 

USA Basketball Scores High London Olympics Ratings For NBC

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 16, 2012

USA Basketball assembled its strongest men’s and women’s teams for the 2012 London Olympics with one goal in mind – bring home the gold.

The anticipation of the WNBA superstars, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings, competing for a record fifth consecutive gold medal and NBA all-stars, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, playing on one unified team did not disappoint basketball fans.

While NBC Sports received intense criticism for its decision to tape delay many Olympic sporting events including track and field, swimming, and gymnastics, the network managed to broadcast a number of men’s and women’s basketball games live. Ultimately, this decision worked in NBC’s favor as both the men’s and women’s basketball teams earned high television ratings for the network.

Here’s how USA Women’s and Men’s Basketball 2012 London Olympics ratings stack up as reported by the NBA and WNBA…

The USA Women’s Basketball Gold Medal game against France averaged 10.2 million viewers, up +73% versus the 2008 Women’s Gold Medal game on NBC (5.9 million viewers). The three USA women’s games broadcasted on NBC averaged more than 10 million viewers.

The women’s team also performed strong for NBC Sports Network. The five games on the network averaged 1.24 million viewers per game+26% higher than the team’s average on USA Network in 2008.

The USA Men’s Basketball gold medal game against Spain averaged 12.5 million viewers and an 8.2 household rating, making it the most viewed and highest rated men’s basketball gold medal telecast since 2000. The game more than doubled the average viewership for the men’s basketball gold medal telecast in Beijing (6.0 million viewers).

On NBC Sports Network, the six USA Men’s Basketball games averaged more than 2.6 million viewers, up 81% versus the four game average on USA Network in 2008, including a high of 3.3 million viewers for the game against Argentina.

The viewership momentum established during the 2012 London Olympics will more than likely carry into the WNBA’s and NBA’s 2012 regular seasons. The NBA is set to tip-off on November 1st with its first full season since the lockout.

Meanwhile, the WNBA was in the midst of its 16th season when the league took an extended break allowing players and coaches to participate in the Olympic Games. The 2012 WNBA season resumes today, and in celebration of the historic 41-game Olympic winning streak the league will run a special promotion produced by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners featuring the 12 gold medal Olympians.

“The WNBA is very excited to welcome our athletes back from London,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie.  “This spot celebrates their historic achievement and sets the stage for the intense competition we will see in the second half of the 2012 season.”

Watch the spot here or look for it on NBA TV and ESPN2, as well as NBA and WNBA digital media channels.

From USA Basketball To The WNBA, Renee Brown Knows Talent When She Sees It

The American women have dominated basketball since its own “dream team” was assembled in 1996 for the Atlanta Olympics. This  was special era for the business of women’s basketball, and the launching pad for theWomen’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

Any executive will tell you that building a business doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, commitment and chemistry. All of the key pieces have to come together in the right place and at the right time.

One of the integral pieces for the WNBA is Renee Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations.

Brown has been with the WNBA since the very beginning. She entered the league as its Director of Player Personnel where she was responsible for evaluating talent. This role was a perfect fit for her, because she previously served as an assistant coach at the collegiate level (University of Kansas, Stanford University and San Jose State) and with the 1996 Olympic team. By the time Brown joined the WNBA she was already familiar with the best women’s basketball players in the world.

During the last four years Brown’s role with the WNBA has evolved. Now she oversees all player scouting and acquisitions for the league, which also includes player related policies and programs. Also, she manages officiating, scheduling, rules and competition, and discipline.

This role is a far cry from her early aspirations of being a principal; in the early 70’s the idea of a women’s professional basketball league was unheard of. Looking back, she recognizes that it is because of Title IX that she had the opportunity to play basketball atUniversityofNevada–Las Vegas, get an education, and have the opportunity to give back to women’s basketball.

For Brown, the WNBA is 16 years young. She remembers that only 17 short years ago the most accomplished women’s basketball players had to take their talents overseas to play professionally. And during those days if you asked collegiate women’s basketball players who they wanted to be like, they would mention Larry, Magic, or Michael. Today those same players want to be like Sue, Candace and Maya.

“It’s great to see that they have role models because of the WNBA and because of Title IX,” said Brown. “The talent just gets better and better every year; the players are coming out bigger, faster and stronger. They come in with the swag that they belong here. It is great to see them coming in and it was their dream [to play in the WNBA].”

When asked about the future of the WNBA, Brown envisions it as “becoming part of the fabric of the sports world in this country.”

“When you talk about professional sports the WNBA will be part of that conversation. Just like women’s tennis has transitioned and it is one of the sports being talked about,” Brown said. “Our country is embracing it, and one day we will look back and it will just be.”

Today Brown is still involved with USA Basketball. While she is no longer coaching on the sideline, she plays a role in the team selection process. Brown is proud of her USA Basketball roots and proud that every member of the 2012 Women’s National Team is a WNBA player. What a difference 16 years makes.

WNBA President Laurel Richie Talks Title IX

2012 WNBA Draft presented by Boost Mobile, which was held Monday, April 16 at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

Last week I wrote about the40th Anniversary of Title IX and asked “Where would women be without sports?”

For the 132 women of theWNBA, without sports they wouldn’t be making a career out of pounding the hardwood night after night.

Started on the heels of the 1996 Summer Olympics, the WNBA aspired to give women’s basketball players an opportunity to compete beyond the collegiate level in the United States. Today the league is one of the indirect recipients of Title IX, and an example of what allowing women the access and opportunity to participate in sports can do.

At the 2012 WNBA Draft, I spoke with longtime UConn women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, about the WNBA and its evolution.

“I remember when the WNBA first started. I think it was a professional basketball league in name only,” said Auriemma. “It took a couple of years, and now what you see are really good college players coming out after four years at some of the best programs in America that can’t make a team. That speaks volumes to where they’ve gone from a talent standpoint.”

In addition to the talent pool growing, the WNBA accomplished what many of its critics didn’t think was possible – make money.  In 2011, it posted a profit, which was one of the most significant accomplishments of its 15th season. And three teams, Minnesota Lynx, San Antonio Silver Stars, and Connecticut Sun, also finished 2011 in the black.

Recently, I interviewed WNBA President Laurel J. Richie and I asked her about the significance of Title IX and its impact on the WNBA. Here is my conversation with President Richie…

On Title IX and its impact on the WNBA…

RICHIE: The women of the WNBA have been the beneficiaries of Title IX. As they were growing up as little girls and they went through their school years and development, Title IX legislation ensured that they would have the opportunity to play sports and compete as athletes. I think the legislation first and foremost was wonderful for all of those young women, and then from a league standpoint I think our league has benefited greatly from the opportunities they had growing up. We are proof point of the power of Title IX and the impact of Title IX.

On year one as president of the WNBA…

RICHIE: I feel like I’ve been on a steep learning curve since the day that I started. I’m very grateful that my first four or five months were on the road visiting with teams. I went out to literally to every market and that was just invaluable. Then after that to have eight months or so to process everything that I’ve learned and begin to shape the plan going forward, I couldn’t have asked for a better year. I think our 15th season was a great season. We saw attendance up and viewership up.

On lessons learned in year one…

RICHIE: I have a much greater appreciation for the game in terms of how competitive it is, fast it is, and how aggressive it is. It’s not that I didn’t think that would be true, but when you sit in a courtside seat and you see it up close, you leave with no doubt of the quality of the game. The second thing I would say is how engaged, passionate, intelligent and knowledgeable our fans are. I met season-ticket holders who have been with us for 15 years and they can go back and quote stats season-by-season and almost my game-by-game. They know when we’ve made changes to our rules and they’re just very well formed, passionate and full of ideas.

On NBA Commissioner David Stern…

RICHIE: His vision for and commitment to the WNBA – I feel it every day. I learn something new from him literally in every meeting that I am in. One of the things that is most impressive to me is his complete knowledge of the game and his connection with players and partners. I think he’s a very astute marketer, and I feel very lucky to be learning from him.

On season 16 and the future…

RICHIE: My vision is to do what I can to help keep us on the path that we are on, and accelerate that path. My hope is that we will add a sixth straight season of an attendance increase. We will have a full season with Boost Mobile, our first-ever marquee partner, and I’m really excited to see that relationship activated throughout our entire season. We had very high renewal rates for season-ticket holders last year, which I think is a validation of how good the game is and experience in-arena.

And then with this particular season having both the 40th anniversary of Title IX and the Olympics, I think that creates interest in our players over and above the league. The WNBA is very proud that all 12 members of the women’s senior basketball team are WNBA players. The opportunity to represent our country and to do it on an international stage is terrific.

On balancing business and sports…

RICHIE: I think what’s really interesting to me is more often than not what’s good for the business is good for the sport. One of the things that we are really focusing in on is doing everything we can to create more awareness and visibility of our players and their stories. When we do that it’s not only good for the game, because you get very interested in their stories, it also pulls people into the game. I rarely feel that doing what’s right for the business is in conflict with what is right for the sport.

Title IX has created some the most accomplished women’s professional basketball players in the world. They’re not playing for the fame; they’re not playing for the glory. What speaks to the survival of the WNBA is the commitment that the players, fans, and owners have to its success.

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana 

How Ann Meyers Drysdale Played Like A Girl And Won

 

You Let Some Girl Beat You? The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale By Ann Meyers Drysdale with Joni Ravenna. Foreword by Julius "Dr. J" Irving. Behler Publications. Release Date: June 2012

Ann Meyers Drysdale has spent her entire life staring down the attitudes and misconceptions driving the phrase, “You let some girl beat you?”

She grew up in a large family where playing sports was like obeying the 11th commandment: “Thou Shalt Honor Thy Desire To Compete.”

Her talent and athleticism on the basketball court caught UCLA’s attention, and the university awarded her a four-year athletic scholarship. This historic feat made Meyers Drysdale the first female athlete to receive a Division I scholarship and one of the first beneficiaries of Title IX.

During her collegiate years,  she was a four-time all-American and led UCLA to its first and only women’s national championship in 1978. Off the court, legendary men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, mentored her, and to this day she affectionately calls him “papa.”

In 1979, Meyers Drysdale’s first job came courtesy of the NBA when she signed a $150,000 free-agent contract with the Indiana Pacers. While her contract didn’t lead to a roster spot on the team, she courageously opened the door for future female professional athletes.

In her new book, You Let Some GIRL Beat You? – The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale, she opens up about her controversial NBA tryout; life with legendary Los Angeles Dodger and Hall of Fame pitcher  Don Drysdale; her career as a sports broadcaster; and her current roles as a Vice President with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Meyers Drysdale’s memoir is a stunning portrayal of one of today’s legendary women’s basketball treasures, and a candid look at the courage, faith, and determination that it takes to be a champion on the court and in life.

Recently, I spoke with Myers Drysdale about her journey as a women’s basketball pioneer. Here is what she had to say…

On writing “You Let Some Girl Beat You?”…

 Meyers Drysdale: To me the book is for any gender, race, or age. I think it shows that we’re all able to accomplish the things that we want to. Anybody can achieve anything they want to be; whether it’s your social background or economic background. I think it’s important to show children and parents how important sports are in a child’s life. Whatever your dreams are or aspirations are after you get out of high school or college, the road to the boardroom is through the locker room. Sports teach so much character, teamwork, leadership, self-confidence and self-esteem. There are so many important lessons learned from athletics. They can take you to the next level.

On playing basketball at UCLA and Coach John Wooden…

Meyers Drysdale: It was a great time in my life. My brother David was there and coach called all of his players “his boys.” I feel so blessed that my brother was able to be one of his boys. He won two NCAA championships with him and was able to be on his last championship team. There was something special to be at UCLA during that time in the 70’s. My Olympic coach, Billie Moore, was my third coach at UCLA; and to be able to win a championship at UCLA in my senior year, everything came together. And to have someone like Coach Wooden say that I was instrumental in helping grow the women’s game stands for a lot.

On being a women’s basketball pioneer…

Meyers Drysdale: I look at the women before me that were pioneers and opened the door for me. I came around the time of Title IX and I think of the women that sacrificed so much before me and didn’t receive the recognition. I feel like I was part of the change that happened. We all make sacrifices, and women today have to continue to make sacrifices for the next generation that is going to come up.

On being the first woman to sign a free-agent contract with the NBA…

Meyers Drysdale: My tryout was received with a lot of hostility. It really took me by surprise because I had been so well received by UCLA and winning a championship; then all the sudden I was doing something that was not acceptable. I was surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the negativity. I was just doing something that I had always done my whole life. It was just difficult for a lot of people to accept that. The media was not very kind and certainly I did have some supporters. A lot of people were not keen on the idea, and the coach certainly as I mentioned in the book was not pleased about this. So it was difficult for everyone because it was a first and they didn’t know how to deal with it.

There were the stories of she’s taking a job from a guy or how can she be in the locker room. I just tried to block it out. I remember one guy saying she’s good, but she doesn’t deserve to be here. It made me sad, but it also fired me up. This was the beginning of my road. This was my first job. I was 24 years old and did not work in high school or  in college because I was always playing USA basketball. I was not familiar with being turned down because I had been successful through sports. It was a great learning lesson.

On being one of the first female sports broadcasters…

Meyers Drysdale: Back in the 70’s it was a field that was sprinkled with a few women. I recognized that there weren’t many women. We all knew that sports were great but it would be a short in your life. In my contract with the Pacers, my brother Mark put in that I would do broadcasting. Just the fact that I would get the door open and broadcast Pacers games was huge. I just feel blessed to be in the position to be good enough to be able to broadcast, and the people who have had faith in me to be able to do it.

On a woman playing in the NBA one day…

Meyers Drysdale: It takes a special person, not everybody is going to play in the NBA as far as talent is concerned. It takes somebody that is going to have a thick skin, sense of humor and can deal with the pressures of what the media and players are going to say.

On being an executive in WNBA and NBA…

Meyers Drysdale: I’d been asked since day one when the WNBA first existed to go with a franchise whether as a broadcaster, president or GM. Phoenix was persistent and I was fortunate to step into the role as a GM.  I think that I do have a good sense of the game, not just the women’s game but the game of basketball. I’m not always going to be right, I have made some bad choices in my position; but if you don’t take chances you’ll never know. If someone gives you an opportunity, don’t worry about failing. You have to have the courage to do it- fail or succeed. The position that I’ve been with the Mercury as the President and GM and now Vice President, I have learned that you have to make choices and they are not always going to be good ones.

Meyers Drysdale’s choices have not only impacted her career, but they have also created opportunities for countless female athletes and executives. She has shown the importance of gender equity on and off the court, and to this day she is fighting for the day that the phrase: “You let some girl beat you?” becomes obsolete.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

 

ESPN Hosts The WNBA Draft For The Good Of The Game

What’s one word to describe the relationship between the WNBA and ESPN?

If you ask Carol Stiff, ESPN’s Vice President of Programming & Acquisitions, she will tell you that it is partnership.

The WNBA and ESPN have been partners since the league first tipped-off on June 21, 1997, and they have journeyed together bringing the best that women’s basketball has to offer to television audiences.

On Monday April 16, they will officially kick-off season 16 when ESPN hosts the 2012 WNBA Draft presented by Boost Mobile at its Bristol, Connecticut campus. ESPN2 will televise the first round beginning at 2 p.m. ET, with a simulcast of the entire draft on ESPN3.com. ESPNU and NBA TV will broadcast the second and third rounds.

Why bring the draft to ESPN?

We all know that with every successful partnership, there must be a “meeting of the minds.” Are both sides on the same page? Is the strategic plan moving forward in the right direction? Are the parties on track to achieve their goals?

Together ESPN and the WNBA have a shared goal, and that is to advance women’s basketball.

“Women’s basketball means a great deal to us and our viewers,” said Stiff. “The fact that we carry over 200 women’s collegiate basketball games a year, it just makes all the sense in the world that as we continue to try and bring a new demographic to our fan base that we find ways to grow these great storylines from the collegiate level into the WNBA.”

Last year was the first time in ESPN’s 32-year history that it hosted a draft on its 123- acre campus; and over the course of the last eight months, Stiff and the WNBA’s Chief Operating Officer, Christine Godleski, have worked diligently with the best and brightest at ESPN and the WNBA to make it happen all over again.

What’s at stake for this partnership?

Ultimately, for the alliance between ESPN and the WNBA to be successful both parties will need two very important stakeholders, sports fans and ESPN employees, to buy into their game plan.

The WNBA and ESPN recognize this need, so in addition to the traditional draft coverage, the 2012 draft class will have the opportunity to interact with ESPN employees and executives during the 2012 ESPN-WNBA Fitness Day and the Inspiring Women Brunch hosted by ESPN Anchor Cindy Brunson.

Stiff said, “One thought is when you have an opportunity to meet the brand or touch the brand, you become attached to the brand. And with bringing the players up to the campus throughout the year and bringing the new WNBA draftees to campus for the draft, it does allow our employees to interact and get to know them.”

“I think there are some really good stories that need to be told,” Stiff added, “that we can now pitch to all the different platforms here at ESPN.”

Regarding the fans, I asked Stiff about the existing WNBA fans, many of whom would like to see more coverage of women’s professional basketball on ESPN. We discussed how she balances making decisions that are good for ESPN’s business and decisions that are good for the game.

Stiff said, “We have a commitment to women’s sports and it is a balancing act to blend the best of the best. I think that we have the best menu of women’s sports whether it’s women’s basketball, tennis or bowling. What we have to do is blend them together and not separate them. There is an interest in women’s sports and there is an interest in fans watching women’s sports; it is up to us to find the best spot for it.”

If you are interested in women’s sports, and would like to become a stakeholder in the WNBA’s and ESPN’s goal of advancing women’s basketball, here’s everything that you need to know about the 2012 WNBA Draft…

Coverage

  • First Round: ESPN2 and ESPN3.com at 2 pm ET
  • Second Round & Third Round: ESPN3.com, ESPNU, and NBA TV from 3-4:30 pm ET

The live telecast of the draft will take place in ESPN’s Studio E in Bristol, Connecticut that is home to Mike and Mike in the Morningand NFL Sunday Countdown. Previous WNBA draft sites have included the NBA Studios in Secaucus, NJ (2009 and 2010) and the NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four (2006 – 2008).

Production Features

  • WNBA.com Interviews
  • ESPN.com Chat
  • One-on-One Media Interviews
  • ESPNW Chat
  • ESPNW Title IX Mosaic
  • Boost Mobile Lounge – Draftees will be able to call family and friends immediately after they are picked to share their experience from the day.

Top 2012 Draft Prospects

Name/University/Position/Height

  • LaSondra Barrett/Louisiana State/Forward/6’2”
  • Vicki Baugh/Tennessee/Center/6’4”
  • Sasha Goodlett/Georgia Tech/Center/6’5”
  • Tiffany Hayes/Connecticut/Guard/5’10”
  • Glory Johnson/Tennessee/Forward/6’3”
  • Shenise Johnson/Miami (Fla.)/Guard/5’11”
  • Lynetta Kizer/Maryland/Center/6’4”
  • Natalie Novosel/Notre Dame/Guard /5’11”
  • Nnemkadi Ogwumike/Stanford/Forward/6’2”
  • Devereaux Peters/Notre Dame/Forward/6’2”
  • Samantha Prahalis/Ohio State/Guard/5’7”
  • Kayla Standish/Gonzaga/Forward/6’2”
  • Shekinna Stricklen/Tennessee/Guard/Forward  6’2”
  • Riquna Williams/Miami (Fla.)/Guard/5’7”
  • Julie Wojta/Wisconsin-Green Bay/Forward/6’0”

2012 WNBA Draft Order

First Round

  1. Los Angeles (15-19)
  2. Seattle from Chicago (14-20) (Cash/Willingham, 1/2/12)
  3. Minnesota from Washington (6-28) (Anosike, 4/5/11)
  4. Tulsa (3-31)
  5. San Antonio (18-16)
  6. Phoenix (19-15)
  7. New York (19-15)
  8. Washington from Atlanta (20-14) (Harding/Miller/Phillips, 4/11/11)
  9. Connecticut (21-13)
  10. Washington from Seattle (21-13) (Smith, Monroe, Thomas, Phillips, 4/29/11)
  11. Indiana (21-13)
  12. Minnesota (27-7)

Second Round

  1. Los Angeles from Tulsa (3-31) (Riley, 2/1/11)
  2. Atlanta from Washington (6-28) (Harding/Miller/Phillips, 4/11/11)
  3. Los Angeles from Chicago (14-20) (Wisdom-Hylton, 5/31/11)
  4. Los Angeles (15-19)
  5. Tulsa from San Antonio (18-16) (S. Robinson, 5/2/11)
  6. Minnesota from Phoenix (19-15) (Houston, 2/28/12)
  7. Minnesota from New York (19-15) (Breland/A. Robinson, 4/11/11)
  8. Minnesota from Atlanta (20-14) (Chester/Jarry, 4/11/11)
  9. Connecticut (21-13)
  10. Seattle (21-13)
  11. Chicago from Indiana (21-13) via Seattle (Smith, Monroe, Thomas, Phillips, 4/29/11) (Cash/Willingham, 1/2/12)
  12. Phoenix from Minnesota (27-7) (Houston, 2/28/12)

Third Round

  1. Tulsa (3-31)
  2. Washington (6-28)
  3. Chicago (14-20)
  4. Los Angeles (15-19)
  5. Tulsa from San Antonio (18-16) (S. Robinson, 5/2/11)
  6. Phoenix (19-15)
  7. Minnesota from New York (19-15) (Hollingsworth, 5/27/11)
  8. Atlanta (20-14)
  9. Phoenix from Connecticut (21-13) (T. Robinson, 4/11/11)
  10. Indiana from Seattle (21-13) (Smith, Monroe, Thomas, Phillips, 4/29/11)
  11. Washington from Indiana (21-13) (Smith, Monroe, Thomas, Phillips, 4/29/11)
  12. New York from Minnesota (27-7) (Hollingsworth, 5/27/11)

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana

 

Five Lessons WNBA Players Can Teach You About Business

I know what you’re thinking: “What can WNBA players teach me about business?

Thoughts are running through your head about the league suffering from low attendance, TV viewership and sponsorships. Not to mention you’ve heard countless rumors about the WNBA being a drain on the NBA’s resources.

Let me stop you right there. Those thoughts are far from reality.

The truth is that during the WNBA’s 15th season it experienced an increase in attendance and TV viewership, and the league landed a marquee sponsorship with Boost Mobile. As for resources, several WNBA owners have said that despite the economic downturn their teams are on pace to turn a profit within the next several seasons.

So, what can WNBA players teach you about business? A lot.

It’s a little-known fact that more than 90% of WNBA players are college graduates. For many reasons the concept of “one and done” doesn’t exist in the WNBA. As a result the league is full of players who are not only skilled on the court, but also in the classroom.

WNBA players are not going to college to bide their time until they are eligible for the pros. They’re going to college because they know that life on the basketball court won’t last forever.

Recently, I caught up with four WNBA players (Cappie PondexterTammy Sutton-Brown,Essence Carson, and Asjha Jones) who are all “business” on and off the court.

Here are five lessons that WNBA players can teach you about business:

Continue reading “Five Lessons WNBA Players Can Teach You About Business”