Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How the WNBA got its start

As irked as Stern gets now about gender equity - the ho-hum reaction the U.S. women got for winning their fourth straight gold medal in Beijing compared to the adulation showered on the men's team is "enough to make you into a feminist" - it was economics that drove the creation of the WNBA.

The original WNBA franchises were initially affiliated with their local NBA teams, giving owners a new revenue stream and keeping their arenas occupied in the summer. Regional TV networks got additional programming. Everyone was looking for new ways to capitalize on women's buying power, which was steadily increasing.

The players didn't care what the reasoning was. They just knew they had their own league and it was built for the long haul.

Ads trumpeting "We Got Next" outnumbered Dennis Rodman's tattoos during the 1997 NBA finals, and the WNBA was on TV from the very first tip. Not some random channel at 3 a.m., either, but the big-time, NBC and ESPN. In its second season, the league averaged an impressive 10,800 in attendance.

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(I'll know the WNBA has hit mainstream when we get fantasy WNBA on Yahoo.)

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