Commentary

WNBA Puts Women's Movement, Health Issues Front-And-Center

The WNBA began its 22nd season this past weekend, but the 2018 campaign will be about much more than whether or not the Minnesota Lynx will face the Los Angeles Sparks in the Finals for the third consecutive year.

The WNBA has launched “Take a Seat, Take a Stand,” described as an empowerment program for women and girls.

For each game ticket purchased, the league will donate $5 to one of six organizations working with the WNBA (fans have the option of selecting which to support). People can also choose to donate directly to one of the groups.

The six organizations are Planned Parenthood, It’s On Us (supporting sexual assault victims, preventing assaults and keeping the issue in the spotlight), GLSEN (working to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ students), MENTOR (supporting quality youth mentoring programs), Bright Pink (focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer) and The United State of Women (for women who see that “we need a different America for all women to survive and thrive — and want to work collectively to achieve it”).

The decision to put this platform front-and-center, especially given the political climate of the nation, means the WNBA and its players should get a lot of positive support but could also receive furious criticism.

“The WNBA has always done a great job of being at the forefront of social issues. And not silencing opinions or shying away from discussions,” said Candace Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP and four-time All-Star, who has been one of the primary faces of the league since being drafted by the Sparks in 2008.

“There are issues and we can’t ignore them. There are so many things that affect so many different people. That’s where the WNBA is at in this social climate.”

The league itself is shouting about “Take a Seat, Take a Stand” via a multi-media marketing campaign.

A lead TV spot shows the camaraderie among players and between players and fans, interspersed with scenes from recent marches and events that have put a focus on women’s issues and concerns.

It plays out to the song, “Can’t Knock Me Down” by Anna Mae.

Internet, social media and in-arena activation are also key elements.

The WNBA and its players are also taking these issues from the court to local communities.

In addition to the $5 donation, for each ticket purchased the WNBA will donate a ticket to “send a young woman or girl to a game to inspire her by the strength, talent and leadership of the women of the WNBA.”

People also have the choice to support local organizations in all 12 teams’ communities, which will vary by city. 

“For 22 years, the WNBA and its players – women playing at the highest level of their sport – have stood up as role models for millions of women and girls,”  said WNBA president Lisa Borders.

“With ‘Take a Seat, Take a Stand,’ we are proud to come together as a league to stand with our partner organizations, our fans and the many inspiring women raising their voices for change in the current women’s movement.” 

“You can’t just sit back,” said Parker, who won a league title with the Sparks in 2016. “I really respect the WNBA for supporting the players and supporting inclusion. That is such a big thing.

“Everyone is different and we are a league that represents that.”

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