A league that will not take no for an answer

Featured Image By TonyTheTiger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Lies, Failures, and Insults That Are the WNBA

The WNBA has been going all out this year to get you to “Watch Me Work”. Commercial after commercial and a social media barrage the likes of which have not been seen since the league’s inception back in 1997. Quite fitting for the 20th anniversary of the most successful Women’s Professional Sports League in US history. It couldn’t have come at a better time too.  The whole country was riveted by this year’s intense action in the NBA playoffs. The NBA Finals gathered ratings the likes of which it hasn’t seen since the Jordan era. The Rio Olympics this summer would enhance exposure of the league and help showcase the talents of the WNBA to the entire country. The timing couldn’t be better.

Unfortunately for the WNBA the Public is still saying a resounding “no thank you very much.” But the WNBA and its pushers can’t seem to take no for an answer. Despite the massive publicity campaign and the Public’s renewed interest in professional basketball interest in the league remains tepid at best. And that is putting it politely. The WNBA season started while the NBA playoffs were still going on in order to help promote the league and their commercials ran nonstop. Newspapers and other sports publications and web sites were overrun with great news about the WNBA and all the amazing things happening there. The WNBA and its new President Lisa Borders ranted and raved about the sky-high ratings, higher traffic on their Social Media sites and a large increase in the number of subscribers to WNBA’s League Pass streaming service (for 16.99 for the entire season price is not a concern). The WNBA refuses to release any data on merchandising so one can only speculate in those regards.

However, the opening night game gathered an amazing .3 rating of around 500,000 viewers. Hardly anything to write home about; considering the fact that this game was between two of the League’s Perennial Powerhouses Phoenix and Minnesota. In fact, the ratings on the ESPN networks have only averaged around 234,000 viewers, up from 202,000 in 2015 (the lowest in the history of the league). If one removes the two statistical outliers from the equation (top and bottom rating) then that number becomes 206,000; almost exactly the same as 2015[1]. The WNBA claimed a large increase in subscribers to the League Pass but steadfastly refuses to release ANY hard figures and data. The one thing Borders was not bragging about was attendance.

The WNBA knows no shame and limits in regards to out and out lying about its attendance records.  However, it seems that lying for the sake of social justice is completely acceptable. According to League “official figures, ” attendance for all games between May 14th and June 12th (inclusive) was 7060 per game[2]. This was even less than 2015 when the league had its smallest draw ever. A better comparison would be the 2014 season rather than 2015 (one team was playing in an alternate location (San Antonio and another announced it would move following the season (Tulsa); both which hurt attendance. The 2014 average was 7587. This means a drop of seven percent. Hardly a harbinger of success. So the League and its teams decided to distort and out and out falsify their numbers even more. As of the Olympic Break, the WNBA’s average attendance (for 2016) now stands at a whopping 7318 per game.

None of this means that the players and the coaches of the WNBA don’t have talent and don’t work very hard to be great at what they do. It simply isn’t a product that catches the attention of very many people. Exactly like snowshoes being sold in Hawaii. Cricket matches get poor ratings in the United States (even though it is the second most popular sport in the world). The MLS gets poor ratings as well. Many sports do. All of the people involved in the sports I’m sure to give it their all. However, the demand for such sports is simply not there. No amount of marketing or airtime or political pressure can make that happen. It is the same for the WNBA and no, it is not my fault.

The WNBA and its teams are blatantly lying about their popularity, success and attendance. It almost reaches Orwellian levels. Take for example the Phoenix Mercury. They, as do most of the teams that play in an NBA stadium (Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix) close off the upper levels of their stadiums and sell tickets for the lower portion of their arena. The Mercury have one of the highest average attendance levels in the League. For example, on June 12th the Chicago Sky came to Phoenix and a large crowd of 9,055 per official count came to see the action. A careful count of seating for Mercury games on Ticketmaster show a seating capacity of around 9,350 or so in the lower level of the stadium; including courtside seating (this is a high estimate). There are also around 106 executive suites available which seat around twenty each. Please see the attached video of the game here. Many of the skyboxes are unoccupied. Even if every skybox were occupied to capacity, it would mean that 7,000 fans packed the lower bowl of Talking Stick that night. That would mean that at least seventy-five percent of the lower level would have been full. We can let our readers decide the truth of this statement.

The inability of the WNBA officials and teams to count gets worse. On July 10th the LA Sparks reported an attendance of 19,076. The capacity of the Staples Center (per Wikipedia) for Laker games is 18,997. If one checks the short videos available on the WNBA website (No, I will not personally pay a penny to view the whole game on their website. It would only encourage them.) one can see many empty seats even in the lower rows. The cameras never pan to the top level (The Sparks are probably the worst offenders in regards to inflating their attendance numbers). The Washington Mystics reported an opening night crowd of 11579 on May 14th. Check the video out on the WNBA website. One sees far more empty seats than occupied seats (especially at either end of the court) and this on opening night. It is certainly far better than the Mystics usually draw. I could go on and on, but there is no need to. The proof is available on the WNBA’s website and is available for just about every team.

Even these ridiculously low numbers and lies are padded by mass ticket giveaways. Take the Chicago Sky (who have one of the premier players in Elena Delle Donne as their main attraction) and their numbers. According to their official count, they have an average of 7,494 fans per game. However, two of their games this year (6/29 and 7/13) were Camp Days (The Sparks had a camp day on July 10th); where large numbers of children and their handlers were given free tickets in hopes of enticing them to come back again. Attendance on these two days was 11,892 and 16,444 respectively. If one takes these games out of the equation, their reported attendance drops to 6,011. Which is still far off from reality (their lower level seats around 7,000 and Sky boxes do not provide any real revenue according to their Communications Dept). According to the Communications Dept of the Chicago Sky, they have a paltry 517 season ticket holders. In the third largest metropolitan area of the country that is all, they can get?  Teams are even forced to give away thousands of tickets to playoff games and even Finals and still generally cannot come close to filling their arenas (there have been a couple of exceptions here and there).

Price is also not an issue in regards to attendance. Take a look at these Craigslist and what people are offering. No one is taking them. Take a look at the prices on the team websites. I was offered Chicago Sky courtside seats starting at 32 dollars. Some teams even try to sweeten the pot by including all you can eat disgusting stadium trash masquerading as food (check out the Mercury website here) while you attempt to enjoy this unwholesome product. I tried speaking with several teams in regards to ticket giveaways and how many people pay for their seats on any given night and the accuracy of numbers in regards to attendance. None were willing to delve into these topics, and so I thanked them for their time.  After all, they are private entities and do not owe me or anyone else an explanation; except for any investor stupid enough to buy into the team.

As marketing gimmick after marketing gimmick has failed over the years to improve attendance the WNBA has become desperate. They have taken to embracing their GLBT fan base and welcoming them en masse so that many WNBA games now seem like Gay Pride Parades. This in and of itself makes a mockery of the WNBA’s claim to be a business and not a cause. Not that embracing the GLBT community is necessarily a bad thing.  However, a professional sports league is supposed to deliver entertainment, not a social message. Part of this marketing strategy is due to their failure to attract a more mainstream audience. They simply cannot even give away their product. Their attempts to get more people to watch their games have become offensive and as their product continues to languish they find a way to blame men. I remember years ago when I was almost finished with University, and I was offered free tickets to the local WNBA team at an outreach they were attempting. Having seen the product on TV and not being impressed, I politely declined the young lady trying to give me the tickets. She persisted: telling me how good the seats were, how much fun the entertainment and game was and that most of all they were absolutely free. I then stated politely but firmly once more “Save them for someone who will go to the game” and walked away. She glared at me as if I was Lucifer himself. Heaven forbid I simply don’t have an interest.

That attitude now seems to be prevalent in the WNBA. The league is languishing because men are pigs and women who don’t support them are weak. The Phoenix Mercury launched an insulting “Man Up Challenge” where they offered free tickets to men who had no interest in the game; claiming they would help “cure the cooties together.” Given the average price of a ticket to a WNBA game you would think that the Mercury would realize that the majority of people weren’t interested in their product and neither desired nor needed their charity and had better things to do with their time. Very few people took them up on their offer, and they still trumpeted it as a success (attendance remained flat). Insulting me is certainly not going to get me to come to your games.

If you have to give away your product it is basically an admittance on your part that your product is not worth paying for. When you give away playoff tickets and even thousands of finals tickets (link) it is evident that your product is not competitive. Especially if you continue to have to give away tickets twenty years into a brand.

The WNBA now claims a majority of the teams and the league itself make a profit. Other people and I have long doubted this. There is almost no data available or forthcoming from the WNBA or the individual teams in regards to their finances. However their large TV deal (25 million a year according to some sources and corporate sponsorships are all shoehorned into any deals involving the NBA by the NBA itself. Originally ESPN had no plans to show an opening night game this past May. When confronted with this fact the head of negotiations brushed it off as an “oversight” that would be corrected. That is a standard corporate world cop out. No matter what the amount of additional revenue these deals bring they do not add any value to the franchises themselves. These deals are the definition of corporate charity and represent a hidden transfer from the NBA to the WNBA (The Soviet Union did this during the 70’s as their economy tanked but their oil revenues increased).

One of the biggest arguments that apologists and SJWs use to garner sympathy and guilt people into spending money on the WNBA is the focus on the “Fundamentals of Basketball” rather than the flash and athleticism we have come to expect in an NBA game. In other words, women play smarter basketball than men, and they play it the way it was meant to be played. Nothing could be further from the truth. An easy five minutes of research on the official websites of both the WNBA and the NBA put that myth to rest. NBA teams have a higher shooting percentage for both regular and three-point baskets (+1.03 and + 1.42 to be precise), commit fewer turnovers per 48 minutes played (-2.46) and have more assists on average (+1.12). The only category in which the WNBA bested the men was in free throw shooting (+4.3%). Bear in mind too that the WNBA uses a significantly smaller ball that makes the probability of an uncontested shot going in significantly higher. The reliance upon the WNBA model is forced because the athletes simply do not possess the individual athleticism and speed that we have come to expect from our NBA (and even NCAA) players. The idea that the women of the WNBA are somehow providing a superior product to the men of the NBA is a lie that the Apologists and supporters of the WNBA are desperately clinging to as if it were a life raft. The raw numbers prove that point. But then again it seems that the WNBA has never troubled itself over raw numbers and data.

Another argument the WNBA desperately uses is the comparison to the NBA after twenty years in existence. It is flawed in many ways. There were only three channels back when the NBA was in its infancy, people had nowhere near the disposable income they do now, travel was far more difficult and expensive, and most importantly the NBA had absolutely no one forcing its brand down the throats of consumers on an hourly basis.

The WNBA likes to portray itself as wholesome, affordable fun for the entire family and full of fine, upstanding individuals. That sounds quite refreshing; given the scandalous behavior of other professional athletes over the years. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people of the WNBA are just as flawed and fragile (if nowhere near as wealthy) as any other sporting figures. The hypocrisy of the WNBA regarding this behavior is reprehensible.

Apparently, it is okay with the WNBA if one of their star players abuses their spouse; so long as it is a lesbian committing the abuse against another lesbian. Britney Griner’s slap on the wrist for her brutality to her significant other is quite contrary to Ray Rice’s punishment for his misdeeds. When one of their star players sexually assaults another player on the court, it is cause for excitement among their fanbase, rather than a criminal act (so much for a wholesome environment for children). WNBA players (and coaches) have been accused of other depravities and shocking violence that are quickly covered up or not even picked up by the mainstream media because despite the best efforts of a few SJW and GLBTQ Activists almost no one cares. One of the few times the mainstream media cared was when some players of the Minnesota Lynx staged a partial media boycott in regards to certain social issues. It wasn’t very inspiring. Are these really the type of role models we want for children?

The WNBA and its players and its small core of fans also don’t seem to realize that there is no Title IX after college (which is devastating men’s collegiate athletics across the country). You cannot force people to watch your games; despite your best efforts over the years and the backing of fabulously wealthy people and a full court press (pun intended) from the NBA itself. NBC, ABC, ESPN and the Lifetime channel have all carried WNBA games for extended periods of time and all with a similar lack of any success. The League Office, its players and all of its SJW cohorts all lament the lack of mainstream coverage and the league’s condemnation to the bottom of the barrel regarding priority and blames that for their lack of success. The fact remains that the WNBA has been aggressively marketed for many years and found to be a black hole for ratings. The Nielsen ratings are available online. Go check out the programs that air against WNBA games and compare their numbers. That’s a free market economy for you.

I have mentioned the word product several times here. The WNBA is selling a product. That product is sports entertainment. There are so many options for excitement in the summer that even for those of us who have large amounts of disposable income time becomes a factor. I can think of at least a dozen fun things I could do every night rather than go to a WNBA game. Many other people feel the same, and we are not evil because of it.

There is certainly a sense of self-entitlement creeping into the WNBA as it continues to flounder. Perhaps it is a natural consequence of the Title IX protections many of their players enjoyed during their amateur careers. If one reads a piece penned by the Lynx’s own Maya Moore here, it is plain to see. She laments her relatively low salary, the lack of sponsorship opportunities and low interest in the WNBA and blames it all on sexism and corporate America. She claims the WNBA have a “great product to offer” and is being shafted by sexism (coded language for men) and Corporate America. The fact is that the WNBA is not a great product nor is it profitable (no matter how much you fudge the numbers). If it were a great investment, then the corporate sponsors would be fighting each other for the opportunity to sponsor you. It is barely a niche product for a small segment of the population of the country. Make yourself into that superstar and hero that everyone wants to idolize. Until then dream on. Is it not enough for you that you are living and playing on the charity (both voluntarily and involuntarily given) of others and have been for many years? Yes, I said it. The WNBA is a charity case just like Title IX is. And people wonder why the costs associated with going to University continue to skyrocket (although there are many reasons behind that).

We live in a free market economy and as such, the demand for entertainment is up to the consumer; not the supplier. We the public as a whole have sampled the WNBA product and decided that it simply isn’t a product that interests us. The WNBA has its fans and its supporters and all in all, does not do harm to anyone. The losses it operates at are a small drop in the bucket compared to the NBA’s revenue and it can continue for a long time if the NBA has the money to burn (which they most certainly do right now) in this endeavor. I am one of those people who thinks that the world is more interesting with different types of people who enjoy doing different things. I hope the WNBA continues to entertain its fans and provide a decent living for its players and support staff. But the WNBA is not a major sports league and probably never will be. So please WNBA players, fans, and supporters stop bothering those of us who don’t care for your product and more importantly stop vilifying us. It is not going to get us to go to your games, buy your merchandise or come and meet you in public. Please take no for an answer.


[2] All attendance and Team statistics are courtesy of the www.wnba.com unless otherwise noted.

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