Women in sport ‘on the precipice’ of a new future

ESPN/MGN WNBA players take collective knee as all three games are postponed. Photo Date: Aug 26, 2020.

Black women stood tall in 2020, especially in sports.

WNBA players, for example, played a huge part in getting Rev. Raphael Warnock elected as U.S. senator from Georgia, defeating former senator and Atlanta Dream part-owner Kelly Loeffler after her disparaging remarks about their social justice efforts and season-long Black Lives Matter emphasis last summer.

Hudl, a sports analysis software company since 2006 used by players and sports teams at all levels, co-sponsored its second annual BreakThrough Summit, a two-day, nine-hour virtual event in December. South Carolina WBB Coach Dawn Staley was among several Black females featured as speakers.

“I’m driven by challenges,” Staley told the attendees. “I have beaten the odds. I’m not a talker, I’m a doer.”

“I think that women, especially women in sport, are right now on the precipice…ready to launch themselves into the future. I think the stage has been set,” declared Joy Shadley, Hudl global marketing vice president. She told the MSR after the Summit, which we attended, “It turned out better than we imagined. Our attendance doubled from last year. We were really happy with the turnout.”

A veteran corporate executive and mother of two girls, Shadley said of Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman in U.S. history to hold the office, “I’m so excited. She will do amazing things.”

Courtesy of Hudl Joy Shadley

Last year also saw a renewed cry for diversity and inclusion in all areas of society. Shadley stated that diversity and inclusion “are becoming the norm rather than the exception. I think 2020 was really the year that required us to think about our responsibility differently. I think sport companies will have to think about it differently.

“It is no longer a concept to talk about,” she of diversity and inclusion. “I think that is a big trend that is not going to lose stream this time.”

COVID-19 has forced business-not-as-usual, including how colleges recruit players, because coaches are not allowed off-campus and campus visits by recruits are prohibited because of health protocols. Her company also had to make the necessary adjustments in order to meet their clients’ needs, reflected Shadley.

“We are making sure that all athletes have equal access to get identified and get recognized,” she said.

Bits and pieces

James Wade last week signed a four-year contract extension with the Chicago Sky through the 2025 season.

Wade and Derek Fisher (Los Angeles) are the WNBA’s only Black coach-general managers.  Wade has led the Sky to consecutive playoff appearances in as many seasons at the helm and became the first coach in franchise history to reach 30 wins in 48 games, the fastest in team history.

Fisher last month was assigned the dual role when his head coach contract was extended. In two seasons in LA he has 37 regular-season wins, second only to Las Vegas’ Bill Laimbeer in that span. He also made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

WNBA ICYMI news: Free agency began January 15. Teams now can negotiate with their own players, restricted and unrestricted free agents, until Feb. 1, when clubs can finalize offer sheets and sign contracts.

Minnesota’s Temi Fagbenle and Anna Cruz are among 11 reserved players (three or fewer years of service), and Erica McCall is one of nine restricted FAs (four years of service).

Shenise Johnson and Kayla Alexander are among 41 unrestricted FAs, free to sign with any club, which includes such notables as Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker, Tina Charles, Sue Bird and Diane Taurasi.