Every WNBA postseason is different. This one is different in the sense that two of the teams that were in the lottery last season have made it into the postseason this year.
The two in question are the Dallas Wings and New York Liberty, taking the places of the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks – both postseason participants from last year in the bubble.
The Wings will travel to Chicago to face the Sky in the first round of the playoffs while the Liberty will meet up with the Phoenix Mercury to start its postseason slate.
Only one issue – that Liberty-Mercury game (the first postseason contest for New York since 2017) will not take place at the Merc’s primary venue of Footprint Center.
Instead, the first round of Liberty-Mercury will emanate from Grand Canyon University of all places. Phoenix’s X-Factor is one of the most passionate fanbases in all of women’s sports (arguably in the entire WNBA). That X-Factor will be in full force, obviously, for that game, but there is something that has to rub a women’s sports fan the wrong way when playoff games involving women’s teams get treated as an afterthought.
Why the relocation, by the way? It appears because Footprint will be hosting a concert that evening. As much as we love women’s sports, we are also major connoisseurs of music here at Beyond The W. Still, this scheduling conflict should have been handled much better by those who handle the scheduling process for Footprint.
The relocating of WNBA playoff games to alternative arenas is nothing short of pure sexism and nothing short of short-sightedness among those who schedule events for these arenas. And it seemingly happens year in and year out. We will never know if something similar would have happened during last season because the entirety of last season was played at the bubble in Florida.
It is one thing for WNBA teams to have to relocate arenas because of renovations to their primary venues. In recent seasons, the Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream have all encountered this issue. The Storm have played this entire season at Angel of the Winds Arena in suburban Everett but will move back to Seattle in 2021 with the completion of Climate Pledge Arena (the greenhouse formerly known as KeyArena).
But playoff games being relocated for other events is completely annoying for many a WNBA fan. Remember that 2004 season where the Liberty had home games at Radio City Music Hall of all places? Guess why the Liberty had to be shoved into Radio City for home games?
To accommodate the Republican National Convention which was in New York City that year. Yeah – James Dolan being typical James Dolan (thank goodness he is out of the WNBA’s hair).
And that, of course, was followed up by the three seasons (2005-07) that the Liberty went across the Hudson River to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey because of a multi-year renovation project to Madison Square Garden.
And let us not even get started on what happened in the 2018 Finals between the Storm and Mystics. Game 3 of that series (which turned out to be a 3-game sweep by Seattle) was contested not at Capital One Arena (where the ‘Stics played prior to moving to the DC Entertainment and Sports Arena) but at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
We know variations of the following question get asked a lot, but it bears repeating. Could one possibly fathom a Brooklyn Nets playoff game being relocated to … let’s say … Seton Hall or Rutgers? Could one possibly fathom a Charlotte Hornets playoff game being moved to either the University of Charlotte or Winthrop University in nearby Rock Hill? Could one fathom a Los Angeles Lakers playoff game being moved to USC or UCLA?
If the answers to all three of those questions are no, then it is time to realize that the playoff games for the WNBA deserve the same respect.
Even with all of the noteworthy and noble progress women’s sports has made over the years, this is obviously one area of the W that must be corrected.