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Swish Appeal editor-in-chief steps down to finish writing book about the WNBA

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After three years as Swish Appeal editor-in-chief, Tamryn Spruill — the first woman, Black woman and gay woman to hold the position — is stepping down to finish writing a book about the WNBA. COURT QUEENS: The WNBA’s Story of Power, Passion, and Perseverance On and Off the Court is forthcoming from ABRAMS Books in 2022. 

Tamryn Spruill (left) with Dawn Staley in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Diana Koval.

Dear Swish Appeal Readers:

It will be three years on April 23 that I announced my arrival as editor-in-chief at Swish Appeal in a statement touting the “unique influence” of sports in society to “close divides and open minds” and championing athletes and others in the world of sports who use their platforms to call attention to pressing social justice concerns.

I stated my intention to diversify the site’s content by adding to exquisite on-court coverage a deeper examination of off-court issues impacting women in sports. Additionally, it was of prescient importance that Swish Appeal feature stories about the myriad change-making, barrier-breaking players of the WNBA, both present and past. Simply put, the ladies were not getting their hard-earned respect and I set an editorial agenda focused on delivering them their flowers: bouquets, single-stem and potted, by the truckload.

Well, mission accomplished.

But it was not without the hurt and strain of backlash from various factions riled early on by our coverage of gender inequities, racism and homophobia. In spite of demands from some that we focus on Xs and Os and leave the other stuff alone, I pressed forward with an editorial agenda hinged on examining the various cultural hates that have prevented professional women’s basketball from receiving the complete and warm embrace it deserves.

On the worst days, I sobbed and considered walking away. They’re not paying me enough to deal with this abuse, I’d say to myself. But some things demand sacrifice, just like the WNBA’s 2020 season of social justice was bigger than basketball to a history-making, politically-transformative degree. I didn’t walk away because my lifelong conviction to make spaces better (even though doing so usually comes with a fair amount of discomfort) wouldn’t allow me to.

In the words of the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

And this, too, applies to me (the first woman, Black woman and gay woman) becoming editor-in-chief in the first place.

Slowly, I formed a team of knowledgeable women’s basketball writers who possessed a demonstrable affinity for the women’s game, showed up eager to join me in this mission and stayed by my side through ups and downs.

To my current team of kick-ass ride-or-die professionals — Cat Ariail, Eric Nemchock, Jim Savell and Zack Ward — (and those who made prior invaluable contributions): THANK YOU! Your love of the women’s game is palpable and those just discovering it should consider themselves lucky to view it all through your individually unique and inspiring lenses.

With 463 articles written for Swish Appeal and thousands more edited, I must now resign my day-to-day duties to place my full attention on finishing the book I am writing: COURT QUEENS: The WNBA’s Story of Power, Passion, and Perseverance On and Off the Court (ABRAMS 2022). The opportunity to write this book is a dream come true and I wouldn’t be doing it right if I didn’t put everything into it and leave it all on the page.

So, for now, I am stepping away to concentrate on this labor of love, which has been a lifetime in the making. I may have a final article in the pipeline for next week, with plans to return periodically with a column. Additionally, my work as a freelance journalist continues, but I’ll only be accepting one or two assignments per month because a sister needs some sleep.

“It has been a pleasure to see Swish Appeal grow and thrive under your leadership,” my supervisor said of my tenure. “I am extremely excited for your opportunity to write a book, and I appreciate your dedication and forward-thinking.”

Now, join me on the journey as I finish writing COURT QUEENS! I’ll be posting anecdotes, snippets, release dates and more on my personal Twitter account (@tamrynspruill) and at The Hard Screen. Definitely follow the @hardscreenpod if you’re not already because our latest episode featuring Gabby Williams (!!!) drops soon, and a backlog of additional episodes will follow periodically.

With hope for a safe and exciting NCAA Women’s Tournament and 2021 WNBA season, the league’s 25th!

Tamryn Spruill