Before the opening tip off took place at the All Star Game in Seattle, WNBA president Lisa Borders took part in a televised press conference where she addressed the media on the weekend’s festivities and addressed a number of issues relating to the league.
This All Star Game was the first under the presidency of Lisa Borders.
She opened by thanking the city of Seattle and the Seattle Storm for organizing all of the pomp and circumstance that took place around the game, including the raising of a WNBA flag atop the Space Needle and having many of Seattle’s landmarks adorned in the WNBA’s signature orange color.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) July 21, 2017
— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) July 22, 2017
— Angel Gray (@Angel_Gray1) July 21, 2017
Borders then talked about the on court product, and lauded everything from three point percentage to points on average per game throughout the league.
When addressing the business issues, she touched on everything from attendance to the WNBA’s deals with Twitter and FanDuel which were done to draw more fans into the sport. She put particular emphasis on how a third of the games shown via Twitter have drawn over a million viewers and that over a million people are playing WNBA daily fantasy on FanDuel.
Borders closed her opening remarks by thanking the players and Storm ownership.
To be here in Seattle with one of our model franchises, not just because they operate their franchise well on a daily basis or because they have executed this All Star weekend flawlessly, but equally important because they have the courage and the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what they believe in.
That last part can be seen as a reference to the Storm’s ardent support of Planned Parenthood, which included a rally a few days ago at Key Arena prior to the Storm’s home matchup against the Chicago Sky. Borders referenced both Planned Parenthood and the Boys and Girls Club in her remarks.
So recognizing that women still appear to be a disenfranchised group where folks think they have the right to tell us what to do with our bodies and who we should love, that’s not happening here in Seattle and that’s not happening in the WNBA.
After also giving some love to the W’s primary broadcast partner in ESPN/ABC (KOMO TV 4 in Seattle) she fielded questions from the press. Borders believes that the Twitter only continues the WNBA’s reach globally.
Clearly we play our games during our season, our six month season from April until October in the U.S., but our players, many of them, are global citizens and play during the second six months of the year in the international markets. So those markets are now able to follow our players on a consistent basis throughout the year on a platform like Twitter and can even broaden the reach of the W today.
She certainly believes that after last year, which was the 20th anniversary and an Olympic year that the momentum from that has carried into season number 21…and that social media has played a key part.
I use Twitter. I’m soon to be 60, but I’m told by my friends I’m unique in my age bracket. That’s not to say no one at 60 uses Twitter, but a lot of folks younger than myself are using the social and digital media platforms. So we think it’s, again, more people, a volume of folks that we are delighted to have watch the game and learn about our players.
Borders than was asked about how political stances of many players are shaping the league and even referenced the recent announcement by Sue Bird that she was gay and dating soccer player Megan Rapinoe.
Having served in public office in a former life from 2004 to 2010 in the city of Atlanta, I got a first row seat in having to deal with the public and public perceptions about how far we had come or not come in Atlanta, which is the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. I would tell you that women’s rights are also civil rights today and this is the next iteration is what I would tell you of where our society needs to focus.
She then talked about how she believed the league has found itself after 21 years of existence, comparing it to a young adult who is currently finding her or himself in her or his early 20s.
Like all middle children, I think it took us a while to find our voice. We have found our voice. We’re clear on who we are and what we stand for, so, yes I would tell you like any maturing adolescent and any maturing adult, it takes time to get your sea legs, if you will.
Highlighting the Summer League, highlighting the W, we’re not fighting for space, it’s all about basketball, and this is the game we all love, so I think it’s helpful when everybody is focused on basketball.
I support Sue in her comments and in her statements and in her rationale, all of it. But at the end of the day, she shouldn’t have to do that. She’s a person. She should be able to live her life without people judging her. There’s no reason to judge her. She demonstrates who she is every day on the court and how she lives her life.
Women are today, I think, in better position to make the statements they want to make than they ever have been before, and I think players like Sue Bird leading the march and saying, feel free to talk about whatever you want to talk about, professionally or personally, sets a shining example and inspiration to little girls and little boys everywhere.
Of course, Borders cannot seemingly get through a presser without someone asking her about the expansion question. She once again addressed that at this one reiterating her staunch stance on ensuring all teams are currently financially solvent.
We want to make sure that each and every one of our franchises is doing as well as they possibly can before they expand. But will we expand? Of course. We want to make sure when we do, though, that the market demonstrates its viability to support a WNBA franchise.
The final question Borders received pertained to the site of the All Star Game: Key Arena, which is a focal point of a hotly contested debate on whether or not to renovate it or build a new stadium in the SoDo District of Seattle to attract NBA and NHL franchises.
The Storm recently signed an agreement with the City of Seattle to extend its lease at Key Arena until 2028.
We do take the lead of our teams that are in franchises that are dealing with arenas, arena leases, whether they move, whether they stay, renovations. That happens in sports all the time, so we are not the tip of the spear. I would tell you we are the tail of the spear. But you need the tip and the tail to pierce whatever you’re going after.
(Video Credit: WNBA)