Envisioning a WNBA whose players no longer feel obligated to travel overseas

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

The end of every WNBA season and the crowning of a champion – in this case, the Chicago Sky, is always a bittersweet occasion for women’s hoops fans.

Yes, we celebrate a new team and a new city being recognized as a championship city, but attention quickly turns to which players eventually will be traveling to the UMMC Ekaterinburgs and Dynamo Kursks of the overseas leagues.

The reason for this is well-documented because WNBA salaries are not exactly the best in sports. The WNBPA hoped to address this over time with the collective bargaining agreement that was struck between it and the league in early 2020 before the onset of the pandemic.

After all – Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun won league MVP this season. She did not travel to the bubble in 2020, but still came back to lead the Sun to a No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. In a just world, Jones would be enjoying her offseason, doing community work throughout Connecticut and New England and be all over our television screens, radio dials and social media feeds with her name and likeness in endorsement deals.

But as we know in women’s sports, it is far from a just world.

In a just world, if a player wanted to travel overseas, it would feel more like an option moreso than a must.

There are WNBA players that are getting a chance to stay stateside at least somewhat after the conclusion of the season. Some of the most obvious examples are with Candace Parker (Chicago Sky) and Chiney Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) who are NBA analysts for TNT/NBA TV and ESPN, respectively.

Then, there’s the New York Liberty. Fresh off a season that saw the seafoam, black and copper (no Kahleah, that’s Chicago) make the postseason for the first time since 2017 (their last at Madison Square Garden) and nearly pull of a shocking upset over eventual Finals participant Phoenix Mercury, the Liberty are giving its young (Black) stars a “push,” as it is commonly referred to in the wrestling business.

Between Betnijah Laney and DiDi Richards dressed in their Friday best at New York Fashion Week and Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere recently honored at her alma mater UCLA, the young core of the Lib is not simply outside … but outside outside.

We still need to do something about Ellie’s eyes, Lib. Let’s chat soon, sis.

Then – there is the recent announcement of a new basketball league to be launched by Athletes Unlimited in early 2022.

Several WNBA players will be part of the new venture – including Courtney Williams, Natasha Cloud, Odyssey Sims, Jantel Lavender, Essence Carson, Sydney Colson and Ty Young among others.

The league will take place from late January to late February – entirely in Las Vegas with tryouts in December in the Atlanta area.

Then – there’s Kysre Gondrezick and Chennedy Carter. After seemingly months of the Indiana Fever draftee and Atlanta Dream draftee being invisible during the regular season, the two were spotted together at an Adidas event in Los Angeles.

A world where WNBA players can enjoy their offseasons? Let’s manifest…