Column: the Skylar Diggins-Smith issue appears to go deeper than just the Dallas Wings

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On a scale of 1-10, the eventfulness level of the WNBA offseason looks to be at a 12.

It has not been long since the Washington Mystics were triumphant over the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals in 5 games for its first championship in team history.

Since then, the Minnesota Lynx suspended Odyssey Sims for the first two games of the 2020 season due to her DUI case, they re-upped with coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve, Angel McCoughtry continues to keep fans guessing as to if she will return to the Atlanta Dream or sign with another team as a free agent, the Dream announced they will be moving to a new arena south of downtown Atlanta, the New York Liberty decided to part ways with coach Katie Smith after two seasons of losing ball and the Liberty announced they will move to Barclays Center for 2020 and beyond.

And that’s not even considering players embarking on their annual overseas treks and the CBA situation lurking in the background.

Then, one of the W’s signature faces took to Twitter…

That, of course, is Skylar Diggins-Smith who did not play the 2019 due to her pregnancy. Among the many things she tweeted – that she played the 2018 season while pregnant as well and kept the news almost entirely to herself.

The first tweet she sent already had fans buzzing and wondering (once again) if it was related to a dispute she had with the Dallas Wings or related to another matter that may have not had anything to do with WNBA business.

As evidenced by her later tweets, the first had a lot to do with WNBA (and Dallas Wings) business.

And just when people may think the Wings may be poised for a comeback season after a rebuilding 2019 in head coach Brian Agler’s first year in the D-F-Dub, now all of it becomes murky again.

Similar to McCoughtry and Maya Moore, Diggins-Smith is also entering free agency as an unrestricted free agent. Wings owner Bill Cameron and president/CEO Greg Bibb ought to know that the last thing you want to do is alienate the face of your franchise especially when she is in a walk year.

As a UFA, she can sign wherever she pleases. That could be in Indiana with the Fever – the same state where she played her college ball at Notre Dame or in New York with the Liberty where the combo of her Roc Nation Sports deal and Barclays Center could be tough for Diggins-Smith to turn down.

Or it could be back in Dallas after all.

It also confirms that this offseason for Dallas could also be dominated by a disgruntled and unhappy star. Last year, it was Liz Cambage who waited until the end of the offseason to be traded from the Wings to the Las Vegas Aces.

Diggins-Smith’s tweets are almost certain to heighten criticism of the Wings and how they are run as a sports franchise with Cameron and Bibb at the helm. This is an organization that has already relocated twice (from Detroit to Tulsa and from Tulsa to Dallas) and some of the recent controversies the Wings have been involved in have not exactly given Dallas a good look.

In addition to what is happening with Diggins-Smith and what happened last offseason with Cambage, there was also the controversial firing of coach Fred Williams, who was instrumental in Cambage giving the WNBA another chance.

Williams and Bibb reportedly got into a heated argument after a game in Washington, D.C. towards the end of the 2018 regular season when Dallas went on a late-season losing skid that nearly cost the team a berth in that year’s playoffs. The reported argument resulted in Williams’ firing.

In addition, what does one do if they are current Dallas coach Brian Agler? My guess is he could not have anticipated that he would have left one situation that apparently had its fair share of question marks in Los Angeles for another that looks just as bad on the surface.

Agler’s main objective for the 2019 season was to see what he had with his team with its marquee player out due to pregnancy. He saw an Arike Ogunbowale who came a close second to Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier for Rookie of the Year. Agler was likely thinking that he had himself a dynamic duo in north Texas with both Diggins-Smith and Ogunbowale, not to mention the natural bond the two would develop since both hooped in South Bend under Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame.

Those plans look to have almost been certainly thrown for a loop thanks to this – and its impact likely will go past the Wings organization.

While the WNBPA bastions itself as an organization dedicated to taking care of all WNBA players, the reality is Diggins-Smith’s place as one of the W’s marquee players (and a visible figure who greatly expands the WNBA’s pop culture reach into avenues such as music and fashion) gives her words more weight. Meaning this will likely be an issue that will be brought up prominently by Terri Jackson, Nneka Ogwumike and the rest of the WNBPA (if it wasn’t before) as negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement forge on.

The WNBA ought to pay clear attention to the issues that Diggins-Smith has raised because in the end it is about how the league takes care of its players and not simply as it relates to salaries.
It is about showing women’s basketball players – and by proxy, women athletes – the same modicum of respect that is shown to male athletes as people.

Women’s athletes in all sports for a long time have accepted the tables scraps it appears the league wants oh so desperately to give to them. Diggins-Smith, this generation of players and this WNBA is no longer satisfied with the status quo.

This offseason will tell a lot on if the necessary changes will be made across the board to ensure that this generation of players lay a groundwork for fair treatment of women athletes, both now and in the future.

And in Dallas, it will also tell if one of the WNBA’s most recognizable figures will be ready to spread her wings to another city.

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