Expect Great!June 20, 2008
Now in its 12th season, the WNBA has made many advances for women in sports, but there is still work to do. When the league was formed, players’ health insurance was available during the basketball season only; year-round health care is now available. A new six-year collective bargaining agreement allows for annual league-wide salary increases, as well as increased base and maximum salaries. However, WNBA salaries are a pittance compared to NBA salaries, and endorsement deals are nonexistent.
WNBA players still face many challenges. At the 2008 rookie orientation, for example, players attended a session to learn about “game faces” — in other words, to get fashion and makeup tips. I respect the NBA for instituting a dress code in 2005, but I don’t think Kobe has to wear makeup, and no one is critiquing his clothing during interviews.
Interest in the WNBA is increasing with each season. However, many WNBA players also play overseas during the off-season, like San Antonio Silver Stars’ fan favorite Becky Hammon. During the off-season, she plays in Russia and has been given dual citizenship there. Hammon’s greatest dream is to play in the Olympics, but unfortunately she was not offered one of the 12 spots on this year’s U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball Team. The Russians asked her to play for them, and she will now realize her Olympic dreams with Team Russia.
Title IX has brought women and girls 36 years of phenomenal opportunities — and, with the vigilance of organizations like AAUW, will continue to do so. Most WNBA players are college graduates and have alternative career paths to follow once basketball is over. AAUW will continue its work on pay equity issues and to close the wage gap, because everyone should be treated equally. Like AAUW, the WNBA Expects Great.