Still Making People Mad: The WNBA

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
5:46
PM ET

A couple of WNBA TrueHoop posts last week inspired a whole bunch of e-mail. The vast majority of them are not from the group of men I was really talking about: Those who are mad the WNBA exists. Many dislike the WNBA for some other, less passionate reasons. (For instance, one asks -- what if the money lost on the WNBA were instead lost on the D-League, which could improve dramatically with slightly higher salaries? Another, who works for an NBA team with a WNBA team of its own attached, says a reasonably good boys high school team could beat the Detroit Shock.)

Four interesting reader viewpoints to follow:

Joseph Treutlein from DraftExpress:

My problem with the WNBA has nothing to do with gender or quality of play. I don't even have a problem with the WNBA in and of itself.

My sole issue with the WNBA is how the NBA continues to foot the bill after 11 years. From all I can tell, the entity has shown no signs of improvement in terms of viability over that time, and it's probably safe to assume it'll never be self-sustaining. Normally, I wouldn't care that the NBA is wasting some money on the side, but when there are avenues to invest that money that could actually provide a benefit for the NBA, that's where I have an issue.

According to Wikipedia (and some other independent articles I found on Google), the NBA subsidizes the WNBA to the tune of approximately $12 million per year to offset their losses. Aside from looking benevolent by helping a failing league and scoring some sympathy points, there really isn't any benefit to the NBA from the money they're putting into the WNBA, and after 11 years and little improvement, I don't think there's ever going to be a benefit to come of this relationship.

Once again, I normally wouldn't care that the NBA is wasting some money on the side, but what if that money was invested in a league that the NBA did actually have a vested interest in? What if it was invested in a league that could provide significant short-term and long-term benefits to the NBA? Well, it just so happens there is a league that fulfills those requirements. Why not give that money to the D-League instead?

Just a handful of posts below your post on the WNBA, you talked about the financial situation of the D-League, namely how top players in the DLeague make up to 30k per season + benefits and per diem. This isn't peanuts by any means, but comparatively to the money available overseas, it's obvious why many top college players choose to go that route instead.

If you took the roughly $12million the NBA puts into the WNBA each season and devoted all that money solely to player salaries in the DLeague, you'd see an increase in salary by 250% or more.

16 teams * 10 players = 160 players.
$12million / 160 = $75,000.

Add that to every salary in the D-League, and you now have a top salary of $105,000 per season + benefits and per diem. That, along with the ability to stay at home, will make the D-League a much more viable option for top college players that are getting offers overseas, especially with the NBA just a phone call away at all times.

The money could also be split up into other areas for the D-League, however it'd work best to improve the league's viability. Part of that money could go into subsidizing more teams, pushing the D-League closer to a full-fledged minor league, with each NBA team having their own counterpart to run personally as they see fit.

As for the D-League and how its continued improvement can benefit the NBA in the short and long term, I don't think I need to really go into that. I'm sure that's been sufficiently covered on your blog and elsewhere.

From a business perspective, this really seems like common sense to me. It's quite clear where the money is better invested, for a multitude of different reasons. The NBA should already be in serious discussions about this possibility. Obviously the NBA couldn't just cut the WNBA off tomorrow, but setting up a timetable and giving sufficient notice that in a few years, the funding would instead be going to the D-League is more than fair in my opinion.

I really hope for the sake of the D-League, the NBA, and American basketball in general, that this happens sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Anonymous writes:

I work for an NBA team. The company that runs this NBA team is also in charge of a WNBA team. Before I took this job, I, too, hated the WNBA, mostly for gender reasons. After being forced to watch the WNBA, I learned to drop my gender bias, but, at the same time, developed a more sensible argument against the WNBA.

The talent level is low. I look at basketball basically on the levels of: Youth, High School, College, Minor League, and Professional. Obviously there are sublevels to all of those categories, but those are the basic five. The level of talent in the WNBA, to me, is not at the "professional" level that it promises.

I attended one of the practices for our WNBA team, and they were scrimmaging against a group of my fellow co-workers (all male) that had been thrown together that day. I have played ball with all of the men on that court, and my talent level is roughly even to theirs. The scrimmage at this practice was competitive, and very even (this was the practice, by the way, that took place before the team's first playoff game, so the intensity and focus levels were high). I am no professional basketball player. In fact, none of the guys on that court even played college basketball.

That is why I don't like the WNBA. It is truly not worth watching, from a basketball standpoint, when there is essentially year-long basketball on TV now (NBA, NCAA, FIBA, Summer Leagues, etc.). I firmy believe that a well-coached men's high school basketball team (and I'm not referring to Oak Hill, but a decently talented high school team with a few college level prospects) could beat the WNBA champion Detroit Shock 5 times out of 10.

Recap: It's not the gender, it's the talent. They just aren't good enough yet. I say yet, because I recognize the progress they've made. The NBA didn't start with the greatest talent either, and I'm sure the WNBA will eventually evolve into a watchable product. 

TrueHoop reader Dustin on why the WNBA makes some men mad:

It is men being stubborn, controlling and yes, maybe a little scared. The problem, in specific, is that men don't want women to go on living their lives thinking the WNBA is comparable to the NBA. Seriously, if one of those promos started out with Candace Parker saying "We know we aren't the NBA, but check us out ..." how many more men would pay attention to the commercial? If women in our society as a whole understood and recognized that men will never treat the WNBA the same as the NBA, how different would men respond when asked what they thought of the league? The attitude is completely a frame of mind that guys have developed because we don't want anything to take away from the sport we love, NBA basketball, and we want the focus of American fans and media to remain on that sport. It's not about being threatened as a man, it's about being threatened as a fan.

TrueHoop reader Keith:

I have only one issue about the WNBA -- it's a violation of the Civil Rights Amendment. Specifically, it uses sex discrimination in employment. Males are not allowed to compete for jobs in the WNBA. Of course, I'm also appalled by the drafts of all sports leagues, and so forth; but you should be aware that there is one substantial philosophical objection to the very legality of the WNBA.

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