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An open letter to men who love the NBA

It’s fantastic that so many women and girls are WNBA fans. But it would be great if more men realized they’re allowed to be fans, too.

WNBA: Finals-Seattle Storm at Washington Mystics
The woman, the myth, the legend: Face Mask Sue Bird. Just one of the epic stories you’ll miss out on by not following the WNBA.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, Men!

How’s it going? I hope you’re enjoying the NBA Playoffs. That Damian Lillard three-pointer sure was impressive, huh?

But let’s talk about the WNBA now.

The assumption — a correct one — is that most WNBA fans, at least those who attend games, are women and girls. Why? Because the WNBA is made up of women. And there are a lot of WNBA fans who are women and girls, to be sure.

But the WNBA also has suffered from a systemic marketing problem that has stunted its outreach and thwarted its popularity. From having so few teams that attending a game can be impossible for many fans ... to most games not being broadcast on national television ... to endorsement opportunities and signature shoes being few and far between for players ... The WNBA hasn’t been doing itself many favors. But, hopefully, the tides are changing now.

Despite these challenges, it’s the fault of the players on the court for not being more entertaining, for not playing “better” basketball, according to some of you. When “they focus too much on fundamentals” is considered a legitimate argument for not watching the WNBA, what kind of basketball fans do you suppose are watching the other stuff?

If you’ve ever found yourself nodding along at the idea of lowering the rim — for the sole purpose of increasing the frequency of dunking in the women’s game — consider why that might be. Is the only reason you watch men’s basketball because some players dunk? Would you survive an entire NBA game if not a single player dunked? Why is dunking the priority — and why has it become so heavily gendered that the idea of changing the rules of basketball so women might dunk more is given the light of day?

Sure, more women could like the WNBA. That would be pretty convenient, wouldn’t it? If women self-sustained their own sports leagues, men so offended by their existence wouldn’t even need to waste time typing hateful tweets to their players, coaches and fans!

Or — get this — more of you, men, could watch, too. Thanks to the WNBA’s new deal with CBS Sports, watching is easier than ever, with games also presented by ESPN, ESPN2, ABC and Twitter Sports.

And there are plenty of other things you can do:

Go to the games. It’s a lot more fun to fill the arenas yourselves than to ridicule low attendance.

Join the chorus of voices demanding more and better WNBA merchandise. And buy some yourself! I mean, if Blake Griffin got his own A’ja Wilson jersey during NBA All-Star Weekend, surely you want one representing the 2018 unanimous Rookie of the Year, too?

Tell your male friends about your favorite teams and players. There’s no shortage of outlets just like Swish Appeal that are happy to teach you about them, and no shortage of articles to share. Post, share, tweet and retweet.

Stop the woman-hating madness. Shut down tired WNBA jokes before they happen and encourage your friends to do the same thing. Be that guy, rather than that guy.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver might want to place the blame on “young women” because the NBA’s (and, thus, the WNBA’s) own marketing efforts haven’t reached the demographic the WNBA represents. But when so many NBA players are outspoken about their adoration for women’s players and the WNBA, why can’t NBA fans be, too? For all the NBA fans loving Sabrina Ionescu during the 2018-19 NCAAW season just as much as Stephen Curry does, will you then hate her after she turns pro in 2020?

The WNBA preseason opens on Thursday, May 9. From all of us WNBA fans around the world, we hope to see you at some games, watching some games or, at least, with us on #WNBATwitter.