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To grow the game, media coverage of the WNBA needs to be supported, taken seriously

The landscape of women’s basketball media needs to grow in order for the game itself to continue to grow.

2023 WNBA Finals Practice and Media Availability
A’ja Wilson takes questions at a 2023 WNBA Finals media availability.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

I think it’s time media companies took WNBA coverage seriously.

Before you protest, “Of course she is saying that, she’s an WNBA writer,” I’ll tell you what I ALSO am—a NBA writer.

Everyday, I see every network, newspaper and media outlet employ people on a full-time basis to tell the NBA’s stories. That’s great; it takes full-time effort to cover a sport as complex, popular and nuanced as basketball—men’s or women’s.

I could probably count on one hand the number of people I know who write about and cover the WNBA on a full-time basis. Even so, some of the best and most brilliant minds that create the WNBA coverage that is deep, powerful and awe-inspiring are writing these stories on a part-time basis. Not to say NBA bloggers aren’t also doing that, because some of the best stories I’ve read about the NBA have also come from part-time writers as well. That’s also not to say people who write about the NBA have it easy either; I’ve seen layoff after layoff, place after place not understand the importance writers have in the sports media landscape.

2023 WNBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability
Stories like those of Chelsea Gray deserve to be told by talented writers and heard by larger auidences.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

In my—definitely not expert but perhaps somewhat valid—opinion, sharing stories is one of the best ways to grow the game of women’s basketball. Yet, that takes time to master. It takes years of understanding the intricacies of the sport, building relationships with the players, cultivating an audience and so much more to be able to write authentic stories. Stories that bridge the gap between player and fan, team and community and turn uninformed people into die-hard supporters. Despite the fact that it takes all of that—and that it’s not a full-time job for most—a lot of extremely talented people have done it, all while juggling jobs and families in a society still steeped in sexism and misogyny.

We are always going to advocate for the game, but I won’t lie and say it’s not defeating to see how many negative comments women’s sports content gets. Or how hard it is to convince people that these stories matter. Or how—despite the tangible growth we’ve seen—women’s basketball coverage is still not taken seriously.

According to a report released by Wasserman, women’s coverage accounted for nearly 15 percent of sports media coverage in 2022. This is a huge jump from the previous statistic of 4 percent. At the current growth rate, women’s sports coverage could account for 20 percent of all coverage by 2025. That same report tells us that basketball accounted for the largest amount of TV coverage for women’s sports. Yet, it’s a lack of consistent coverage that makes following the WNBA and other women’s sports difficult at times. There is hardly any year-round, daily coverage around the W to keep people talking 365 days a year.

Think about the male counterparts. You know a NBA story reported by Woj or Shams is going to be (at least mostly) truthful. Fans flock to those trusted sources to get their breaking news. Any day of the year, NBA season or not, there are people reporting on the league and its players.

Yet, the people who we trust for truthful WNBA coverage aren’t even being employed or paid fairly for that coverage. Plus, once the season ends, the coverage basically stops—to no fault of the people making that coverage, of course. They need to be compensated for something that, from the outside, looks like a fun hobby, but actually takes an incredible amount of time and energy to produce. At the end of the day, people have a right to be paid for the work that they do. So when the pay isn’t enough, the work can’t be done.

In a recent episode of the “Hitting the Hardwood” podcast, Rachel Galligan—one of the top WNBA news breakers—talked about stepping away from covering WNBA free agency. She notes that it was a HUGE undertaking that became too much because her other life obligations would suffer if she put in the time needed to accurately cover free agency.

Of course, there will be coverage this week as we head into the peak of the WNBA free agency signing period. But sometimes it’s not as trustworthy as it can be. Think about the mix up surrounding Courtney Vandersloot’s decision last year. Or, the hour or so we all thought Kia Nurse was signing with the Chicago Sky.

Imagine the amount of excellent, consistent WNBA coverage that fans could have if these big companies took just one look at who was writing the best content online and employed them full-time. Major networks fail to realize that the W is an entirely different beast. They hand out their inconsistent WNBA coverage to those who cover the NBA instead of hiring individuals who have spent countless years cultivating relationships in the WNBA community, like Rachel and Khristina.

There is a never-ending amount of daily, year-round NBA podcasts, reading material, radio shows, etc. Imagine the stories and content we could get with the same dedication to covering the WNBA in a daily basis. It’s not like the passion isn’t there; it’s the resources that are lacking. I know there is going to be the people who say “Well, the WNBA doesn’t make as much money as the NBA so why should they be treated the same.” I’m a huge fan of the saying, “If you build it, they will come.”

Think about the 19,000 people who sold out the WNBA Canada Game in minutes. Or, the record number of TV viewers who watched the WNBA over the past few seasons. Then, there’s sold-out crowds at college basketball games. And don’t forget the energy of fans online during the 2023 WNBA playoffs.

2023 WNBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability
You shouldn’t have to be a Hall of Famer, like Rebecca Lobo, to be well-compensated to tell the stories of WNBA players, like Breanna Stewart.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

There is an audience waiting for these stories, wanting these stories. The media just needs to allocate the proper resources for these stories to be told. More than that, they need to make sure these stories are being told with the authenticity and passion that the WNBA deserves.

I get asked a lot, “Why women’s sports?” And it’s really a simple answer. There’s the base fact that I’m a woman who enjoys watching other women succeed. Yet also, you can’t look at me and tell me that the more you read stories about women’s athletes, the more you learn about what it takes to get to that level and thrive, that it doesn’t inspire the absolute heck out of you!

The WNBA is extremely different from the NBA. These athletes are basketball players, but also advocates. They advocate for themselves, their teams and their communities on a daily basis. They have to overcome daily barriers to be able to last in the WNBA. They also have to deal with the never ending onslaught of sexism, racism, homophobia and more that is thrown at them. A lot of them play year-round with no breaks, traveling constantly, raising families, defying odds—and still are consistent with their energy on the court.

So yeah, I do think a lot more can be done to allow people to tell more of these athletes’ stories. Maybe 2024 is the year the media starts taking the WNBA and women’s sports a little more seriously.