Volume 93, Issue 4
Friday, June 4, 1999
Four quarters: examining gender and sport
BASKETBALL IS MORE THAN JUST A GAME FOR BOYS. With the Women's National Basketball Association preparing for it's third season, the profile of women's basketball continues to grow with it.
By Chad Thompson
When the National Basketball Association season ends, a new basketball season will commence.
The Women's National Basketball Association is set to begin it's third professional season. Mark Pray, director of media relations for the WNBA said starting in the summer helps them gain some much needed exposure.
"By playing in the summer we get a fair amount of coverage," he said. "We cross market with the NBA and let the public know that our season begins at the end of the NBA playoffs. The WNBA teams are operated by the NBA teams and the NBA has shown a proven ability to market the teams and players."
Pray cited the television exposure given to the WNBA as a major factor in improving the profile of women's basketball across North America.
"We have the luxury of deals with national networks to cover our games," he said. "Lifetime, ESPN and NBC cover the games for us."
The WNBA has aided the image of women's sport, as well as basketball, he added.
"With our league, the perception of women's sports league changed," he said. "A women's sports league is now seen as a viable thing. We now have a product with the best players in the world and it gives young girls something to aspire towards."
Mike Philbrick, a spokesperson with the Women's Sport Foundation in the United States, agreed the WNBA presents the idea of a women's league as being attainable.
"They have proven themselves every year," he said. "Each year they set out goals for attendance and ratings and each year they meet those goals."
Philbrick cited the way the league is run as a major factor in its success. "The WNBA manages the teams," he said. "They have learned from the mistakes of other expansion organizations, like the United States Football League, that they need to gain a national audience. First they worried about getting big names."
He added the major advantage from interest in the WNBA is the new interest in college basketball in the U.S..
"Teams are getting coverage on a national level now," he said. "It also gives you the ability to watch rising stars after they are done their college career instead of trying to follow them in Europe."
Trudy Lacey, assistant director of USA Women's Basketball, said the WNBA has helped in the creation of awareness of women's basketball.
"The publicity from the Olympics in '96 aided the development of the WNBA which gave the sport a lot of attention," she said. "It revealed to people the well kept secret of how good women players have become.
"The interest started at the college level," she said. "The college audience transferred to the WNBA and sparked the interest of young girls."
Lacey said she could predict women's basketball as gaining a greater, global profile.
"Globally the game has a higher profile and more international players are participating," she said. "It makes it really competitive at an international level."
Bob Delaney, Western's women's basketball coach, said he believes both the WNBA and the NBA have done great things for women's basketball in Canada.
"The sport is really gaining a profile," he said. "It started at a grass roots level and has gone through high schools and universities. We now see more blue chip women's players coming out of high school, which will aid the national program. Women's sports has made great strides in the past few years."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999