Earlier this week I was listening to an interview featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, and she was discussing the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. The interviewer asked Mrs. Obama if she ever doubted whether her husband was ready to be the President of the United States. Mrs. Obama confidently answered that she knew President Obama was ready; the question in her mind was whether the American public was ready to elect him.
Wow! Was the American public ready to elect President Obama?
Now, I’m not mentioning President Obama to make a political statement, but rather as an example to illustrate the historical significance of his election. The United States has a storied history of racism and segregation, and electing an African American president was absolutely incredible.
So many Americans never thought they would see the day when an African American would be President; and many more, including myself, felt an overwhelming sense of inclusion.
What if the inclusion that millions of Americans experienced on inauguration day went beyond race and politics? What if it included gender and sports? What if there was a dramatic shift in the perception of women in professional sports? Can you imagine turning on ESPN or reading the sports section and the WNBA is getting top billing?
Now that the WNBA is celebrating its 15th season, I believe that day is coming; in fact, I know it is coming. Fan attendance and television ratings are up, but everyone wants to know “Where do we go from here?” “When will player salaries increase?” “When will the teams make money and not lose it?” “When will mainstream media widely cover the WNBA?
Personally, I think the WNBA has to take the lead and do something out of the box and shake up its current model to tackle these issues. Try lowering the rims; adopt a wildly creative marketing campaign that is so outrageous it could actually work; alter the minority ownership structure that includes die-hard fans as owners; or actually roll up their sleeves and take on gender equity (Bille Jean King and Venus Williams did and it actually worked).
Sports fans are ready for the WNBA to go to the next level, the league just has to take us there.
This weekend the WNBA will be honoring its Top 15 Players of All-Time during the All-Star Game in San Antonio; and it will be celebrating its many achievements and setting a tone for its future.
I’m ready to see the WNBA receive the attention it deserves and have its own historical “Barack Obama moment.” Aren’t you?