Column: No excuse for sports media to ignore this year’s WNBA draft

Photo Credit: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic – and the ensuing fight to pound Covid-19 into the ground for good – has stopped sports, society, the country and the world at a screeching halt.

With no new games going on, the sports media at large has had to come up with different ways to fill its sports fix. Some have found a way better than others.

While the upcoming NFL draft may be the more “traditional” method which sports channels are attempting to fill time (along with the occasional coaching change and free agent signing), something else is also upon us too that ought to draw more than its lion’s share of attention.

With us being so cooped up in our homes with the ongoing deluge of coronavirus news, sports may not exactly be in the forefront of mainstream consciousness. But there is still sports news to be covered and the draft certainly qualifies as sports news.

In the past, we and others in the women’s sports community were at least willing to give some wiggle room to mainstream sports outlets in the possibility that the WNBA draft may get lost in the coverage of the NBA and NHL playoffs. But with no NBA and NHL playoffs and we still have a longer wait for the NFL draft than the WNBA’s (April 17), there is essentially no excuse for this year’s draft to be swept under the rug.

A Dallas station has already got the message. Entercom-owned KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan (the flagship station for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers) recently interviewed Wings general manager Greg Bibb on how the team is preparing for the draft. Dallas will have the second overall pick in the draft. DraftSite.com’s latest mock has the Wings selecting Oregon’s Satou Sabally with the second pick with Baylor’s very own Lauren Cox going third to the Indiana Fever.

DraftSite had Cox going second to the Wings in one of its earlier mocks.

The station in Dallas apparently got the memo. Hopefully, stations in the WNBA’s other 12 markets also follow suit.

One market in particular especially has zero excuse to treat this year’s draft as if it is nothing more than a footnote.

Remember all of the hype about Zion Williamson entering the draft out of Duke? Remember all of the buildup to him possibly being drafted first overall by the New York Knicks? That was the master plan at Madison Square Garden – except the Knicks did not win the NBA’s draft lottery. That honor went to the New Orleans Pelicans, who as expected chose him with the first overall pick.

The New York Liberty actually won its draft lottery – and will pick first in Friday night’s draft and all indications are that Sabrina Ionescu will be that first pick. Ionescu is the Zion Williamson of the women’s basketball realm – and if selected by the Liberty as what appears to be the case, it represents a major milestone in the team’s ownership transition to Joe Tsai’s BSE group and from the dark years at the Westchester County Center in White Plains to greener pastures in Brooklyn at Barclays Center.

We are sure that sometime this week, YES Network will do at least one interview with either Walt Hopkins (Liberty’s coach), Jonathan Kolb (Liberty’s general manager) or Keia Clarke (Liberty’s Chief Operating Officer). Our question is – will WFAN or someone else in the New York media do the same?

At this point, to do not would be sports media malpractice, particularly with zero live sports going on outside of eSports and professional wrestling. This not only applies to the Tri-State media, but that in the other WNBA markets, but it particularly applies to New York City given who awaits the Liberty at the top of the draft board.

Eli Horowitz (Los Angeles Sparks communications) and Ari Chambers (Bleacher Report) have been among the many luminaries in women’s basketball that has called for greater coverage of the game. And even this is an unusual time right now, the fact remains that the WNBA draft (albeit virtual this year) is possibly the closest thing we have right now to sporting normalcy at the moment – and probably will be for the next few months.

Sports stations have tried to fill time during this pandemic with lots of off-the-wall, non-sports related conversation – including, as the New York Daily News detailed, conversation about getting intimate with your significant other with your dog in the bed.

Smart sports stations can save the pooches-and-sex talk for another time – because they have at least one realm of the sports world that should give them plenty of content at a time when they need it badly.

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