Right now should be an exciting time to be any WNBA fan. The league is saturated with young, elite talent while the veterans who built the foundation of it continue to shine. It also features a future powerhouse in the Las Vegas Aces while established teams like the Mercury, Lynx and Sparks continue to reign supreme.
So why doesn’t it feel like progress has been made?
Much like the NFL, the storylines around the WNBA have to do with the product on the court and the lack of compensation for its players. By contrast, the NBA has turned itself into a 12-month sport with the amount of yearly coverage it receives. The drama behind cryptic answers at the podium from NBA players and unsubstantial trade rumors keep the news cycle churning out content in a way it doesn’t for the WNBA.
Because of the lack of coverage around the league, basketball fans who don’t watch the WNBA aren’t exposed to all of the twists and turns of the season. Those fans are either indifferent to the league or, like most of the comments left on Twitter, chastise it ad nauseam. While the media isn’t responsible for the sexism that exists on social media, producing more content on the WNBA would humanize it for the indifferent part of basketball’s fan base. The media has done this for the NBA, which is why it seems like fans know and offer their deference to the players.
For example, on January 24, 2014, Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks dropped 62 points in Madison Square Garden to beat Bernard King’s franchise record. A year later, SportCenter’s Twitter account posted a graphic reflecting on Anthony’s feat that night at MSG.
Anthony, who is often criticized for not bringing a championship to New York, felt the wrath of Twitter trolls.
“@SportsCenter with no #chip what’s the purpose? #meansnothing”
“@SportsCenter but is he ever going to win a championship??”
“@SportsCenter was that the last time they won too?”
“@SportsCenter and the team still sucks a year later!! Lmao”
For the casual fan who follows the NBA on Twitter, this form of “conversation” isn’t an anomaly by any means. In fact, light-hearted trash talk makes forums like Twitter entertaining for fans and the NBA players who quarrel on the platform.
However, the Twittersphere is vastly different for WNBA players.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 18, 2018
What followed underneath the post in the comment section can only speak for itself.
“Damn that’s like 2 kitchens away very nice” 1,870 likes
“AND THE CROWD GOES MILD” 1,469 likes
“The first non-layup in WNBA history” 1,570 likes
And of course, the worst one…
“I just don’t understand why they have numbers on their aprons?” 948 likes
To reiterate, the media is not (entirely) responsible for the hegemonic masculinity that metastasizes on Twitter. But trolls on social media are going to continue to make sexist comments when they don’t have the information to make cheap shots based on players’ ability. There is still no excuse for what is said on these forums. However, the role of the press is to inform the public. Normalizing the WNBA in its daily news cycle would help limit the backlash the league constantly, and unfairly, receives.