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The WNBA Needs Your Support

Abby Meyers, a guard from the University of Maryland drafted in the first round by the Dallas Wings, is one of many talented players who were cut before the start of the 2023 WNBA season. This is a recurrent problem in the league and one that isn’t common in other professional sports. The reason for this—not enough opportunities for athletes to play in the league.

According to ESPN, the WNBA consists of 12 teams, each allowed a maximum of 12 players on the roster. This means, in total, there can only be 144 athletes in the league. In order to save money for star players, many teams won’t make use of their entire roster. The NBA includes 30 teams and a maximum of 15 players on each roster, which means they could have up to 306 more athletes than the WNBA. This is also excluding players on G-league teams or a 2-way contract—athletes who have a contract with both the G-league and the NBA. The NBA is known to provide more opportunities for player development and career progression than the WNBA.

WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, announced that the league is currently looking into creating expansion teams. At this time, San Francisco and Toronto are two of the top places that may be well-suited for a team. However, it is uncertain whether or not the league would garner enough fans to support a new team. Creating an expansion team costs a fair amount of money, which the WNBA can not afford to lose. There recently was a sold-out preseason game in Toronto between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx, which shows the Commissioner the city’s support for women’s basketball.

Scotiabank Arena
Cr. John E. Sokolowski

In the past, the WNBA has tried, without success, to create multiple expansion teams. During the 2000-2002 seasons, the league reached its peak at 16 teams. The teams that were disbanded included the Houston Comets, Miami Sol, Cleveland Rockers, Charlotte Sting, Portland Fire, and Sacramento Monarchs. This was mainly due to the lack of supporting fans which resulted in the inability to keep up with operating costs and caused a major financial loss. The last time a new team was successfully introduced to the league was in 2008, with the addition of the Atlanta Dream. With the increased viewership of women’s basketball, we can expect the WNBA to re-evaluate the introduction of new teams to the league once the right location has been secured.

In the meantime, many changes could be made that would allow more women to play professional basketball—this includes increasing the number of spots on a team’s roster. The Dallas Wings were forced to drop Abby Meyers from the roster because the team had 14 players which was two over the maximum. When teams make these cuts, veteran players often have a better chance of keeping their spot compared to rookie players like Meyers. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, LA Sparks player Layshia Clarendon told reporters, “I’m heartbroken for the rookies who don’t get a fair shot. Because it’s a veteran’s league… the veterans are going to have an advantage because we know the game. Our game is so different than college.”

WNBA Los Angeles #25
Courtesy of Jeff Lewis

Players have the chance to prove they have what it takes to be a part of a WNBA team during training camp before the start of the season. While some athletes choose to play basketball overseas to gain experience, this option isn’t accessible to everyone. Due to the limited opportunities, competition is fierce, tensions are high, and every move plays a significant role in securing a spot.

Many fans and players are hoping for a WNBA expansion in the near future including high-profile male athletes like Tom Brady, Lebron James, and Draymond Green. Although an expansion is a step in the right direction, teams need to be able to sustain a supportive fanbase and game attendance in order to prove there is a growing desire to see the WNBA succeed.

Edited By: Sarah Wingo

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