Before PWM (primarily White media) took the league seriously and saw it as a viable product, Black-owned media (BOM) treated the WNBA right and spotlighted its players, teams, etc. For the record, the MSR covered the WNBA before Minnesota got a franchise.
However, BOM mostly remains in secondary status behind PWM. This was the case pre-pandemic, and we’re afraid we are collateral damage as teams use the virus as a convenient excuse to limit media access.
“As serious as COVID is, can’t keep using restrictions as an excuse to keep out Black press & press of color out of events & red carpets,” tweeted Nick Hamilton of Los Angeles-based Nitecast Media.
He and the MSR were among the small handful of Blacks at the recent WNBA All-Star Game and related events in Chicago. However, Hamilton and this columnist were not approved to cover the All-Star Saturday events. We were instead offered the option of watching it from the media room. I chose to leave.
Both of us were relegated to media seating in the rafters for the game, the first time ever I did not have a courtside media seat. I let my disgust be known on Twitter as I watched the game from my hotel room.
“I know you weren’t happy,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told me during a halftime local media scrum at the July 12 Minnesota-Phoenix contest. “We’ll certainly look into what happened there [in Chicago]. I appreciate you letting me know.”
Hamilton is a veteran sports and entertainment journalist who launched Nitecast Media a few years ago—and he is a proud BOM. We sat next to each other at Engelbert’s pre-All Star press conference, but he did not get called on to ask her a question.
He wanted to ask the Commish how committed the W really is to Black media in uniquely telling their stories and helping to continue growing the league. “How are they going to be able to allow more Black media and Black media to be involved…seeing that the WNBA is 80-plus percent Black?” said Hamilton to the MSR after the press conference.
“And how Black-owned media and Black media have been able to keep the league elevated, having actual real reporters that cover the game day in and day out, week in and week out, and build relationships with these players.”
I paraphrased Hamilton’s question as we politely reminded Engelbert that legacy BOM, not mainstream media, consistently covered the W for years but still gets the short straw pre-and-post pandemic. Now we have “new media”—social media—to contend with, and the league is ballyhooing them more. Social media got the courtside seats in Chicago.
“I don’t think there was any intention there,” said Engelbert. But moments later she praised social media: “Over 100 million impressions. That’s definitely a record all-time for the WNBA. Social media is helping us tell the stories, get the word out.”
So what were the MSR and other BOM doing all these years? It should be both-and, not either-or.
“I think you can’t talk about diversity” without involving [BOM], said Hamilton. “You can’t talk about inclusion and diversity and not include [BOM]. You talk about partnering up with Black-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses. Well, media companies are businesses as well.
“I think it’s a great league,” said Hamilton. “But we in media are also businesses, and we need to be respected as such.”