Commissioner’s comments miss the mark
Since assuming office in 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver seemingly likes to sow seeds of doubts about the WNBA’s future at inopportune times.
Silver has at least twice publicly said troubling things about his league’s female counterparts. The first came at the start of the 2015 playoffs when he said that he felt the W should be further along by that time. Whether or not that had an adverse effect, former president Laurel Richie submitted her resignation three months later.
Now, during a recent ESPN interview, Silver suggested that perhaps the WNBA might want to switch from its current summertime schedule to playing in the fall and winter to help improve the league’s profitability. “It’s been harder to get people to come to the games. It may be because the games are in the summer,” Silver hinted.
His comments come right on the eve of team training camps, which opened Sunday. Also his comments fly in the face of current W President Lisa Borders’ views.
Last fall, Borders informed the media, including the MSR, “We had the highest attendance in six years this year for the sixth [consecutive] year.” She then boasted, “We are 21 years old this year, and we have all the markings and trappings of a growing and healthy business.
“The product on the floor really drives how well the business does,” she stressed. “Minnesota is undoubtedly one of our best franchises on and off the court, but there are many attributes of many of the other  teams that you may not be aware of.”
If indeed the W does shift its season schedule, the league will be faced with several dilemmas, the largest being that many of its stars would have to choose whether to stay home for the lesser salaries they currently earn playing in the States or go to door number two, the larger paychecks they get from playing overseas in the offseason – during the fall and winter.
Another dilemma resulting from a season shift would be that it would push the WNBA further back in the mainstream sports landscape, going head-to-head with the NFL, NHL, college football, baseball playoffs and the World Series. Not to be overlooked is that their brother league, run by Silver, is the WNBA’s landlord because it is a subsidiary of the NBA.
Does Silver really care about the WNBA? He claims he does, but his latest comments suggest otherwise.
His predecessor, David Stern, did demonstrate his care from the league’s beginning and successfully fought off any attempts to kill it from naysayer NBA owners and others; he was never publicly heard uttering a discouraging word about the 22-year-old women’s league. But this longtime W reporter always was skeptical that Silver shared similar sentiments.
We agree that it has been a tough sell over the years, and the “Why summer?” argument has been offered before. But if the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has no problem playing in the summertime, when sweatbox gyms around the country are regularly packed from dawn to dusk and into the night by players, parents and college recruiters, then there’s no reason why women’s hoops played at the highest level can’t thrive in the summer as well.
Perhaps Silver can offer more than token assistance to improve profitability and give the W league offices more to work with in terms of marketing and promotion, doing 365-day campaigns as opposed to its present bare minimum efforts.
“Do we need to shift to the so-called more natural basketball season in the fall and winter?” Silver pondered aloud. Based on many present factors, our answer is a strong and emphatic no.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.