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This Week in Women’s Basketball: WNBA celebrates viewership, attendance growth for 2023 season

While most recent women’s hoops news highlights the celebratory-worthy growth of women’s basketball, other items distressingly remind of the scourge of domestic violence in sports.

Phoenix Mercury v Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier speaks to the Lynx crowd before a game during the 2023 season.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s the latest news from across women’s basketball:

WNBA experiences viewership, attendance boost in 2023

As supporters of women’s sports well know, if any effort is made to amplify women’s sporting events, making them accessible and available to the masses, then they will succeed.

Unsurprisingly, showing 25 WNBA games on ESPN’s family of nationally-televised networks, in addition to games shown on CBS Sports Network, resulted in the most-watched regular season in 21 years, with an average of 505,000 viewers for games broadcast on ABC, ESPN and CBS. These numbers are a 21 percent over last year’s viewership marks. The league also saw increased digital engagement, with approximately 373 million social media views and more than one million new followers on social platforms. “This surge in interest not only showcases the immense talent and athleticism on the court but also highlights the compelling narratives that continue to emerge about the players and the league,” noted Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

Game attendance also increased, with an average attendance of 6,615 per game representing the highest number since 2018. The defending champion Las Vegas Aces led the league with an average of 9,551 fans per game, a 66 percent increase from last season.

Sending positive thoughts to Kysre Gondrezick

Kysre Gondrezick, the former West Virginia star who was selected fourth by the Indiana Fever in the 2021 WNBA Draft, was the victim of intimate partner violence allegedly perpetrated by her boyfriend, Kevin Porter Jr. of the Houston Rockets.

Ensuring Gondrezick is safe and supported is most important. However, it is hard not to stew over the conspicuous silence of Porter Jr.’s fellow NBA players, many of whom chase clout by sitting courtside at WNBA games.

On her Substack, Basketball Feelings, Katie Heindl addressed the silence of male athletes, writing, “How much could change if they opted to use their voices beyond where was currently comfortable, to stretch, a little, on this curve of what we can be responsible for in sports.”

Riquna Williams to remain away from Aces

On Sep. 7, the domestic violence charges against Riquna Williams were dropped, as her wife stopped cooperating with prosecutors. Through her attorney, Williams made known her desire to rejoin the Las Vegas Aces for the team’s title defense.

The Aces, however, made it clear that Williams will not be rejoining the team during the playoffs, with head coach Becky Hammon asserting at a Sep. 8 media availability, “We’re aware of the charges being dropped, but her status with the Aces has not changed,” reiterating that Williams “will be precluded from participating in team activities.”

$32 million for Kim Mulkey

In early September, LSU rewarded head coach Kim Mulkey with a new 10-year contract that will pay Mulkey $32 million.

While widely-reported as the richest contract for a women’s college basketball head coach, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who signed a seven-year contract in 2021 that will pay her $22.4 million, makes the same base salary—$3.2 million per year—as Mulkey.

Regardless, it is encouraging to see both LSU and South Carolina making the financial investment necessary to maintain top-tier women’s college basketball programs.

Angel Reese named to TIME100 Next

LSU star Angel Reese, who is deservedly raking in the dough with NIL deals, was named to the TIME100 Next list, with Candace Parker penning the description of Reese’s innovating influence on women’s sports and, in turn, society. Parker wrote:

She’s ripping the sport open and tearing back the layers. Basketball is about work, effort, and energy, and Angel always brings all three. Her tenacity and confidence on the court make her such an exciting player to watch—it’s incredible to see her stand in her power and make such a big impact on women’s basketball, especially this early in her career.