WNBA Gets Support From NBA Players With #OrangeHoodie & The Evolution of New Zealand’s Women’s Sports
WNBA Gets Support From NBA Players and Other Celebs #OrangeHoodie
By Zac Cornell
The WNBA notoriously receives less attention than their male counterparts in the NBA, and over the years many NBA players from Kobe Bryant to Stephen Curry have shown their support, seeking to raise the profile of the women’s league. This year especially, many other players and celebrities hopped on board to express their enthusiasm for the WNBA.
The WNBA and ESPN sent out the WNBA’s “Orange Hoodie” to celebrities which led to approximately 200 athletes and celebrities posting photos of themselves in the hoodie before the restart of the season in the bubble. A number of NBA stars including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, P.J. Tucker, Victor Oladipo, Devin Booker, CJ McCollum, and more wore the #OrangeHoodie to promote the start of the WNBA season. Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, Lil Wayne and New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas also posted themselves in their orange hoodies. NBA player Grant Williams took his support for the WNBA even further by wearing different players’ jerseys throughout the restart.
The NBA players’ support made a huge impact – according to sports gear retailer Fanatics, the orange hoodie is the best-selling WNBA item ever. In addition, viewership of the WNBA’s opening weekend was up 63% from an average game from the year before. The WNBA’s season opener between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury was the most watched first game since 2012.
Brooklyn Nets’ star Kyrie Irving just made a huge announcement in support of WNBA players, committing $1.5 million to help cover the salaries of WNBA players who choose to sit out this year no matter their reasons. Only players considered at risk for COVID-19 were covered by the WNBA to continue to receive their salaries. Irving said he was inspired to offer his support through his KAI Empowerment Initiative after he met with members of the WNBA who discussed the financial challenges that were hindering their options. Irving said, “I have learned about the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and how it will impact their lives, family, and overall well being.” In a statement, Irving explained, “This platform was created to provide support for all WNBA players in hopes to relieve some of the financial strain imposed during these challenging times.” He continued, “Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions.”
In January 2020, the WNBA players association signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the WNBA to raise the leagues salary cap, offer better training and working conditions for the players, and a commitment to invest in more marketing and promotion to support the growth of the WNBA. The league also created the WNBA Changemakers, a unique partnership platform with businesses who will invest and commit to promoting the WNBA and women’s sports. AT&T, Nike and Deloitte are the inaugural partners. In the press release, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, “We are launching the WNBA Changemakers platform to team up with organizations who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to women’s advancement and are pioneers in inclusive leadership.” She continued, “The support from these WNBA Changemaker companies will allow us to provide an enhanced player experience for the amazing professional athletes in the WNBA… because of the Changemakers support, we will begin to narrow the gap that exists for women sports, as only 1% of all global corporate sponsorship dollars are directed toward women’s sports. We look forward to other companies joining our vision to drive change toward a more equitable and inclusive ecosystem.”
It is inspiring to see these influential NBA players, corporations and celebrities using their platforms and financial positions to help the WNBA and women athletes get the attention and support that they deserve.
The Evolution of New Zealand’s Women’s Sports and What is to Come
By Natasha Gilman
New Zealand has made tremendous strides in establishing equal rights for women athletes. In order to achieve equality, Peter Miskimmin, a prominent New Zealand sports representative, explained “the momentum can’t stop now if equality is to be achieved”.
Muskimmin has seen a gradual increase in female representation in the sports realm. He has seen more girls than ever participating in sports and emerging as leaders. The discussion of and focus on women in sports has led to an increased investment in the women of the industry. This change was spurred by the government’s Women and Girls in Sports and Active Recreation groups’ strategies. Beginning in October 2018, Sport NZ agreed to supply $12.7 million over the next three years to improve women representation in sports. Two years later, Miskimmin says that only some of the strategies have been successful, while some goals and allocations for the investment have been dispersed by Covid-19. Miskimmin went on to emphasize that despite New Zealand’s upcoming election, the slowing of the womens’ athletics movement seems unlikely.
Mark Mitchell, a national spokesperson for sports and recreation also believes that the national government will continue to support women in sports. He says, “There will be a huge focus on making sure that women’s sport is supported, and that there’s a continued rise in participation”. Mitchell also outlined a voucher system that provides financial aid to families wishing to keep their kids engaged in athletics.
Peter Miskimmin highlighted the actions of the Girls and Women’s strategy that sparked new, healthy conversation. One of these actions was the mandate for sports organizations under Sport NZ funding to have 40% gender diversity on their boards by 2021. Miskimmin believed that this brought healthy conversation to the table as the boards felt less inclined to make change because they “had to” and more inspired by the diversity that they wanted to “make real change”. Despite some backlash and contradiction to the new gender diversity focus, there has been an overwhelming desire for change throughout New Zealand.
When the government granted $4.6 million to sports franchises for Covid relief, Miskimmin saw a greater focus on men and women as a whole in sports. He noted that he saw people mentioning women as less of an add-on and more inclusively, something he would not have witnessed three years ago.
Many studies have supported the beliefs of increased female representation, as media coverage has increased drastically over the past years. Also, the cricket, rugby, and football World Cup events over the next three years will be an amazing opportunity for visibility of females in sports. Miskimmin says he is suspensefully awaiting the political and social conversations that will branch from these events.
Despite the momentum behind a positive and welcoming environment for women in sports in New Zealand, multiple organizations have been spotlighting for the maltreatment of women. Miskimmin says that he has seen a prominent social shift in what is acceptable and what is not and he believes that people are taking time to realize this.
Although Miskimmin’s time with Sports NZ comes to an end in three month’s, the company has been searching for a new CEO and have even been considering females for the role. Miskimmin leaves by saying, “We want our girls in New Zealand to participate, stay participating, dream of being part of sport; to be strong leaders and advocates and be able to realise their desires and ambitions without the barriers that past generations have had”, a wonderful note of inspiration for the female community.