- The Minnesota Lynx, despite a nearly all-Black roster, continue failing to attract Black fans. Now the question is no longer why, but do they really care?
Minnesota next week will hold its only home preseason game at Concordia College’s Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul — at noon on May 24, a school day. I guess the Lynx expect local Black youngsters to opt out of school that day for their first look at the WNBA’s top pick, Maya Moore.
If they wanted to use a school site for staging an exhibition game, why not the Green Central gym in South Minneapolis? It’s more centrally located, and its gym holds the same number of people that will probably show up at Gangelhoff.
Also, given the fact that Green Elementary School is right next door, this would be a walking field trip for youngsters to see Black professional female athletes in action, just the thing for the wind-down days before school ends next month.
It would also be a perfect time for the Lynx players — and their Indiana opponents as well — to visit classrooms afterwards and speak to students.
“There are a lot of [Black] kids who don’t know who the Lynx are,” notes Nedra Robinson of Minneapolis. “They know who the Vikings are, who the Twins are. They don’t know anything about the Lynx.”
Robinson has been a Lynx season ticket holder since the team’s inception in 1999. She says that it seems the only time the team even recognizes this loyalty is when they hold “special events once or twice during the season or after the season” for season ticket holders.
The Lynx don’t know how to cash in on its biggest selling point to the Black community – the team’s players. Simply put, they “don’t know what’s going on in the [Black] community,” surmises Robinson. “You see them going to the suburbs, but you don’t see them coming to the city.”
She adds that you rarely see Black youth participating in pre-game player introductions. “It’s always a bunch of White kids that are passing out the [autographed] balls. Very seldom do you see kids of color in the ball line.”
I still contend that the Lynx’s marketing strategies won’t improve until they hire someone with cultural competency who truly understands that diversity is an always-thought, not an afterthought.
“I don’t think they are even aware that they lack such competency,” says Robinson of the all-White operation. Iwrote in 2010 that the Lynx’s marketing brain trust often is tongue-tied when challenged by this glaring fact. Several Black fans also complained in a 2009 column that the team doesn’t reach out enough to the Black community.
Robinson says, “I don’t think there are any people of color at all” working with Black season ticket holders such as her and her husband. “If there are, I don’t know where they are.”
Robinson adds that it’s not just the local WNBA team that lacks such cultural competency: “You don’t see Vikings [players] or Twins players either. They don’t come into the city. They don’t come to Richard Green center. They don’t come to areas where our kinds have access.”
“It’s sad,” she bemoans. “It wouldn’t cost the players or the organization anything to show up” in the community. “I don’t believe it’s about money. I think it’s about having the awareness.”
Scheduling a noonday exhibition game on a school day — Minnesota is one of three WNBA teams that foolishly planned such a home contest this year. The blunder fully displays the Lynx’s marketing folk as bumbling Inspector Clouseaus wasting a perfect opportunity to introduce Moore, one of college basketball’s most heralded players in history, and her fellow Black teammates save for one, to the Black community, in the Black community. This would have been a true community visit as opposed to the Lynx’s typical drive-bys.
The Minnesota front office needs to seek counsel, perhaps asking community folk such as Robinson how they could do it better. “People have been very patient with them, and we are going to keep coming back,” says Robinson optimistically. “It’s time for them to make a move to the playoffs.”
This columnist also suggests that the Lynx start accepting such criticism instead of acting like ostriches and hiding away. “I don’t expect it to change,” concludes Robinson. “The Lynx need to come to the community. We shouldn’t have to go to the Lynx.”
So we know why they’re not attracting more Black fans. That leaves one question: Do they care?
The Lynx last week announced that six games will be televised this season on Fox Sports North. Chicago, by comparison, is televising 26 games. Only Tulsa and New York (four games apiece) are showing fewer games on television than Minnesota.
Read the “Another View” blog for Lynx training camp updates at www.challman.wordpress.com. Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.