WNBA making strides towards gender equality in sport
By Nicole Dragon
October 24, 2021
Photo Credit: Associated Press
It is no secret that the WNBA continually struggles to gain the amount of prestige and popularity that their male counterparts have. However, recent moves such as securing a Dick’s Sporting Goods partnership and proposing a league-wide charter flight travel schedule show that the gap is slowly closing.
These deals are big wins for female athletes, especially with the recent controversy of the Phoenix Mercury losing their home court advantage due to booking overlaps with a concert and Disney on Ice.
In the partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods, the retailer will not only supply Nike jerseys and other branded items to the league, but will also continue its recent focus on supporting the next generation of female athletes by supplying necessary gear and giving girls the chance to speak up on sport issues. Before this deal was made, it was difficult to find WNBA gear outside of game venues.
The WNBA hopes that expanding its representation to a larger retailer like Dick’s will increase fan engagement and connect the league with larger audiences. This partnership is also about opening doors for females in sports by providing the equipment and clothes they need to participate. Hopefully, when females of all ages see more WNBA merchandise in stores, they will feel more connected to some of the current professional female athletes and empowered to start their own athletic journeys.
Expanding the retail sector of the WNBA is not the only recent successful marketing initiative within the league. The league office is also looking into ways to book charter flights for the teams’ game travel. As of now, all WNBA teams fly commercially to their games, which has led to many issues such as delays and having to space players out on multiple flights. Conversely, their NBA counterparts use chartered flights for every game to avoid these issues.
Billionaire Joe Tsai, owner of the New York Liberty and the Brooklyn Nets, is leading the charge to institute charter flights in the WNBA by working with commissioner Cathay Engelbert to find an airline sponsor for the women’s league. Expansion is on the horizon with playoff viewership up 78% from last year; therefore, chartering flights makes sense as a next step for the league to fortify its legitimacy.
The gap between the NBA and the WNBA is slowly closing as those in charge find solutions to the current issues that the female athletes face. There is still a long way to go on the road to equity for female athletes, but the WNBA is on the right track.