On Monday’s episode of my podcast, All Sports Everything Radio, I opened up the show with a rant about the WNBA. I shared that the league and its broadcast partners, ESPN and MSG, wouldn’t let me be great despite my best efforts and intentions. With great anticipation, I prepared to watch the New York Liberty tipoff against the Washington Mystics as part of the league’s 20th anniversary slate of opening weekend games. Instead, I wasted 32 minutes clicking my life away as I unsuccessfully searched for the proper channel to watch the game, only to find out it was only available via ESPN3 or Watch ESPN — mobile apps. On Monday’s podcast, I went on and on and on about how the game’s inaccessibility isn’t going to convert casual fans into loyal viewers. Fans, especially in a team’s local market, shouldn’t have to exhaust so much energy to support their team. Long story short, I was pissed.
As my listeners endured my rant — bless their hearts — it led to a male listener commenting about often taking his daughter to Liberty games and that this season would be no different. I commended him on the gesture because as a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, nothing made me happier than some quality bonding time with my dad. So, regardless of the activity, I’m always in favor of men treating the littlest ladies in their lives like princesses.
Later that evening, I was reflecting on the podcast and some of its standout moments. Then, it occurred to me that I failed that father, as well as my other listeners. Instead of praising dad for supporting the Liberty with his daughter, I should’ve checked him. I know for a fact that this loyal listener is a father to two beautiful children, not one. He has a daughter and son. In the moment, it didn’t dawn on me to encourage him to make it a family affair and to include his son. In fact, I’d argue that it’s more vital to expose young male children, than girls, to women doing ordinary things as they shatter gender stereotypes. It’s key to raising a generation of equality activists. If as a society, we claim to want to obliterate gender roles, ingraining these images in our youth will normalize their perceptions and influence their views and actions as adults. As role models, we must be perceptive to the messages we convey because children mirror our behavior. If father’s continue to only patronize WNBA games with their daughters, and exclude their sons from this experience, what message does that send to daughters and sons?
Since the league launched 20 seasons ago, the WNBA has consistently promoted daddy-daughter day at the game. And while there’s nothing wrong that, in theory, I believe they’re implicit in perpetuating stereotypes that women’s basketball is a sport for girls because “girls play it. And no. Women’s basketball is for sport lovers, male and female. Period.
But you don’t hear me though.
And that’s cool. Because maybe you’ll listen to an NBA champion, All-Star, All-Defensive First Team, second place Defensive Player of the Year vote getter and triple-double machine — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Green credited the WNBA for his critically acclaimed versatility. He shared his appreciation for the athleticism of women pro players saying, “In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump. He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.”
Draymond gets it.
As the NBA withstands constant criticism for its rule changes, the WNBA thrives because they showcase skillful athletes. They might not fly above the rim like LeBron James or Blake Griffin, but two-time MVP Stephen Curry doesn’t either. And yet his game and abilities are heralded as the prototype. And while the NBA gets lambasted for a lack of defense, the women of the WNBA suffocate each other with it.
So, parents next time you consider taking your daughter to a WNBA game, invite your son, nephew, or younger male cousin too. He’ll be a better man, and potentially better athlete, for it.