Column: Time for the WNBA to stop being kicked around

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

We all have that special person or people in our lives that we love like no other. That person or people is the type where we would do almost anything for to ensure their happiness.

Whether that person is a best friend, significant other, or family member, we are ride or die for that special one or ones we hold dear to us. Not everything is going to be rosy in those relationships as even we have those moments where we feel like we cannot stand that person, but then over time, we rediscover exactly why we love them in the first place.

They are also the type that we will wholeheartedly defend with all our might if someone tries to drive a wedge between us and that special person or persons. It is the “no one gets to drive my bestie or fam or bae up a wall…except me!” complex. That person may drive us crazy and we may drive them totally nuts, but try and mess things up, then meet my wrath.

As aficionados of the WNBA, it pains us to continuously see our favorite sport – and the uber-talented women that play in it – continuously treated as if they are less than, in the sporting lexicon and in pop culture as a whole.

A prime example of this is the Washington Mystics – one of the participants in this year’s WNBA Finals. The Mystics’ primary home is Capital One Arena, but that will change starting next season when they move into a 4,500-seat stadium in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

This may not have been as drastic a move as what the New York Liberty went through going to White Plains, but it is still downsizing. The new arena will not only be the Mystics’ new home, but also that of the Washington Wizards’ G-League team and their practice facility.

The team they will face off against for the W’s most coveted prize will also be moving into new digs next season as the Seattle Storm will relocate next year to Alaska Airlines Arena at the University of Washington. That, at least, is still in the Seattle city limits and is primarily happening because of renovations to KeyArena that are expected to displace the Storm for the next two seasons.

The Storm will also be paid handily by the city of Seattle — $100,000 – for every season they are displaced from the Key.

But in the case of the Mystics, they have already played their home playoff games at George Washington University. Now, Mike Thibault, Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver, and co. will play its finals contests at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Sooner or later, WNBA executives, fans, and its press corps simply has to say enough is enough. This happens with WNBA teams all the time, from the Sparks who have had to play games in Long Beach, to the Mercury who have played at times at Arizona State University.

The Minnesota Lynx notoriously went through this last year when they had to play its playoff games at The Barn – Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota because both Target Center (renovations) and Xcel Energy Center (start of the NHL season) were unavailable.

They won a title last season, and it was a return of Lindsay Whalen to where she played her college ball, but it served as another example of how WNBA teams – and the league at large — get kicked around as if it is nothing.

The bottom line is this – WNBA playoff games ought to get priority over preseason matchups for the NBA or the NHL.

Let’s imagine in some alternative universe that the Liberty were moving back to Madison Square Garden for the 2019 season (we know, we are appealing to the hearts of Lib Loyals with this one). Let’s also imagine that next year, the Liberty have a great season and make an appearance in the WNBA Finals.

Then all of a sudden, a scenario comes up where the Finals schedule interferes with the start of the Knicks or Rangers’ preseasons. In that scenario, let the Knicks relocate or the Rangers relocate. We believe WNBA teams and the league have played enough nice when it comes to ceding stadia to their NBA or NHL brethren for playoff purposes. Renovations are a different story, but is time for the league to pull a Drake and say, “Nice for what.”

Quit your laughing over there, ESPN. Because while you have done some good things for the league over the years, you have also been guilty in kicking around our beloved W like a soccer ball. And we are putting our foots down and saying enough is enough.

Did anyone notice the start of the Finals schedule? Game 1 of Mystics vs. Storm was scheduled for Friday. Guess which network it aired on?

Not ABC.

Not ESPN.

Not ESPN 2.

Not even ESPN U.

ESPN News.

ESPN, we need to talk.

Bristol – four minutes remaining in the second quarter of game where the Atlanta Dream were playing for a berth in the WNBA Finals against a Washington Mystics team facing elimination with Delle Donne back on the floor.

And this is how ESPN operates. Would ESPN dare do this for a preseason NFL game? Our guess is a sad and frustrating no.

This next part is for both ESPN and NBA TV. While the W’s press coverage is without a doubt on the rise, it could still do better.

Look at the WNBA Finals. Why can’t ESPN or NBA TV do an hour of pregame prior to each game and then an hour plus of postgame after every game? This is particularly true when a champion is eventually crowned. How we can go from a thrilling Game 5 of the semifinals to worthless banter about meaningless preseason football with the quickness is enough to make our heads spin like a wheel.

From the travel debacle involving the Aces to the Liberty being shoved into the Westchester County Center, to the lack of adequate coverage, there have been plenty of instances where the W has just been swept under the rug.

This underscores exactly why players are raising h-e-double hockey sticks about salaries. This generation of players is no longer simply happy that there is a WNBA. They understand that with rising interest, rising attendance, and rising awareness it is time to get theirs.

The league as a whole needs to take notes. For too long, other leagues, arenas, business executives have felt that they can simply play around with the WNBA because it is a women’s league.

It is not simply any league – it is the most successful women’s sports league in history and it is time people start recognizing (as we have) that it belongs.

It belongs in our homes, it belongs on our television screens, it belongs on our radios, it belongs in our communities.

#ItBelongs

It belongs in our airports as well. Prior to heading to the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, I checked Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to see if any shops at said airport sold any Minnesota Lynx gear.

After all, if any airport should have any gear of a WNBA team, it would be MSP because of the dynasty the Lynx have established throughout the 2010s.

I checked and checked and checked and – to my knowledge – could not find anything. I saw Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Wild, Minnesota FC, and Minnesota Golden Gophers merchandise.

No Maya Moore jerseys. No Sylvia Fowles jerseys. No Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, or Rebekkah Brunson jerseys.

Guess what I did have the pleasure of spotting when I was at the airport….Green Bay Packers merchandise.

That’s right. MSP can sell merch for a RIVAL AMERICAN FOOTBALL TEAM, but not for its hometown, four-time champion Lynx.

Put some respeck on the W’s name.

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