This week marks the beginning of the 25th season for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and this celebration of its legacy of breaking barriers will continue into 2018.
The WNBA will debut the Commissioner’s Cup, a new competition platform featuring player prize pools that culminates in a championship tilt between the top two teams from each conference. Additionally, fans and partners in local communities will come together for conversations and programs focused on equality and social justice.
The WNBA’s 25th Anniversary
Nykesha Sales, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo all dreamt of becoming cops or firefighters when they left UConn in the early 1990s, yet each likely assumed her playing days would come to an end upon leaving Storrs.
But 25 years later, those three have helped create the WNBA we know today, along with an entirely new generation of players. Though more work needs to be done– with salaries needing to increase and charter flights becoming standard–their accomplishment and gratitude at having helped see their league reach this landmark is undeniable.
As part of its celebrations, the WNBA will hold a special Commissioner’s Cup this season featuring ten games between conference rivals that culminates with a championship matchup between them and each of their respective top two conference opponents. Furthermore, W25, an official logo designed for W25 that will appear on jerseys and game balls this year, has also been introduced for use during play this year and an advisory council composed of former players such as Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes has been formed in order to help grow the game and grow it even further!
The Women’s National Basketball Association is marking its 25th season with various events and activations, such as unveiling a commemorative logo that will appear across courts, jerseys and game balls of teams across the league. Furthermore, the league will introduce the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup which offers player prize pools across 10 regular-season games with 10 designated prize pools per regular-season game, culminating with an epic championship game between each conference’s top two teams.
Since their inaugural season in 1997, WNBA players have used their platforms to challenge norms and push for change. Athletes such as Sheryl Swoopes — who learned she was pregnant just prior to league start up — set an important precedent by choosing to remain in the league following childbirth and return six weeks later as an example for other female athletes who choose not to drop out after childbearing.
Players like Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and the Washington Mystics have been vocal advocates for social justice causes such as protesting after Jacob Blake was killed by police officers, or linking arms or kneeling in solidarity after unarmed black men or boys have been killed by law enforcement officers.
The Justice Movement
Tyasha Harris of the Dallas Wings sees each new season of WNBA play as an opportunity to continue discussing issues that matter – though she acknowledges progress has been made within the league, there remains much work yet to be done.
Though they remain dissatisfied with certain aspects of the WNBA, players appear more optimistic than ever that the league has what it takes to thrive. With expansion set for 2020-2021 and increased salaries and benefits available for top performers under their latest Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in January 2020, players seem confident that those investing will come from owners with both ample financial resources as well as deep passion for women’s basketball.
Lobo, Rizzotti and Sales remain critical of some aspects of the WNBA, noting player salaries should be higher and charter flights essential – including pushing its stars not to use their offseasons for overseas play – but recognize that its current condition is better than in previous years best WNBA predictions.
From a brand engagement standpoint, WNBA partner activation continued to expand last season and into this one. That growth came even as its athletes rose into greater roles of advocacy on issues of equality, literacy and racial justice – not least within social responsibility issues such as these.
During its 25th season, the Women’s National Basketball Association will unveil new initiatives designed to continue and elevate its long-standing advocacy, including its Social Justice Movement. Furthermore, partners and fans from local communities will come together for discussions around equality issues as part of this celebration.
Additionally, the WNBA will convene its inaugural 25th Season Advisory Council comprised of women’s basketball pioneers and legends in order to capture historic perspectives as well as hear from legacy advisors and successful sports business people on innovative ideas to expand the game and grow its fanbase. Furthermore, it will celebrate 25 great moments ranked from No. 25 up through No. 1 during second half of season play and playoffs.