Column: It shouldn’t take an on-court fight for WNBA to receive more coverage

Image: Fox Sports Arizona

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece on a much-ballyhooed on-court altercation between Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers players. Those involved included James Harden, Brandon Ingram, Chris Paul (now in Oklahoma City) and Rajon Rondo.

Ingram, CP3 and Rondo all received suspensions from the NBA for the extracurricular activities.

The premise was on what would happen if said fight, which received surprising rave reviews from those that covered it, would have happened in the WNBA.

One of the elements mentioned in that column was how the W is sadly treated with a TMZ-esque approach in the mainstream media where it takes a controversial story for it to find its way into said mainstream. Whether is the Riquna Williams or Natasha Howard news or when players protested police brutality in 2016, a W story seemingly has to be “hot” for media to even consider touching it.

Fast forward to this past Saturday when a contest between the Phoenix Mercury and Dallas Wings nearly resulted in the exchange of fisticuffs.

Six players were ejected as a result of the fracas. It started when Brittney Griner and Kristine Anigwe got into it after a made shot. She threw punches in Anigwe’s direction and chased her down the court.

Griner, Anigwe, Diana Taurasi, Briann January, Kayla Thornton and Kaela Davis were also tossed. The additional ejections stemmed from players leaving the bench and running on the court.

Anyone notice that all of a sudden the WNBA is on everyone’s lips because of a fight that nearly broke out on the court? We have seen this before with the media’s treatment of the league.

Tamryn Spruill of Swish Appeal and The Athletic is more blunt – she has said in the past that the mainstream media simply treats the WNBA like a booty call. And she’s correct.

So, an on-court altercation broke out between players on opposing teams. Us in the WNBA ecosystem are glad that the W is at least being recognized, but that is far from the only story that should be getting attention.

Liz Cambage just posted a harrowing article on The Players’ Tribune detailing how she still struggles with mental health issues and that she is doing her best to overcome them. This was on full display during the offseason in her emotional Instagram stories that were a byproduct of the trade conversations involving the Wings and Aces over the offseason.

We’re more than halfway through the season and the playoff picture will soon start crystallizing itself. The Washington Mystics, Connecticut Sun, Los Angeles Sparks, Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky and Seattle Storm all look like contenders to bring a WNBA title to their respective markets. We could be talking about the first WNBA ring for Elena Delle Donne…or the first championship for Cambage and A’ja Wilson or the first ring for Chiney Ogwumike. How about the first WNBA title for coaches Curt Miller, James Wade or Derek Fisher. How about the first WNBA title for Mike Thibault or Bill Laimbeer, whose coaching careers have included championship near-misses.

The New York Liberty just wrapped up its Unity Game at Barclays Center against the Seattle Storm. Seattle topped New York 84-69, but the Libs drew nearly 8,000 fans to Atlantic and Flatbush, putting to rest the myth that the Liberty can’t draw anywhere but Madison Square Garden. That 8,000 (as an average) would put New York in the top tier for W attendance once again and has reignited speculation on where the Liberty will play in 2020 and beyond. It seems certain they’ll leave Westchester, but will they relocate to Barclays full time? Nassau Coliseum? A split schedule between Barclays and Nassau?

As important as it is to look at the top of the standings, it is also important to look at the bottom of the standings too. Right now, the bottom four teams are the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream. It is becoming less taboo to talk the “t-word” in sports nowadays (Hint: It rhymes with banking), but we’ve seen in the NBA teams at the bottom of the standings reverse-jockeying for position to land first overall picks.

Of course, the draft order will be revealed when the WNBA has its draft lottery, which likely will include Indiana, New York, Dallas and Atlanta all having a chance to pick Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu with the first overall pick (even though has Baylor’s Lauren Cox going first to the Fever and Ionescu second to the Liberty).

Also: How’s #IonescuToTheRescue for a tank hashtag? #LosinForLauren? Yay? Nay?

And, of course, there’s the CBA situation in the background with the WNBA and its union hoping to navigate through those waters as well. And that’s not even to mention the NBA 2K20 news.

Anyway, our message is simply that we appreciate that you recognize the WNBA exists, but with demand for the W only on the rise, there are more than enough storylines out there that exist.
Enough for a…daily or weekly WNBA highlights/analysis show, perhaps?

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