On Sept. 10, The Players' Tribune published a video of three major WNBA stars discussing a wide range of topics currently impacting their experiences in the league. As part of the "Players' POV" series, New York Liberty stars Tanisha Wright, formerly of Penn State, Essence Carson, a Rutgers standout, and UConn alumna Swin Cash, discuss gender, race, talent, media coverage and more in this wide-ranging video.
The content of the interview is nothing groundbreaking, but these points definitely need to be brought up in the public discourse around sports as many times as possible until the related societal issues are addressed in a meaningful way. As should now be obvious, one article or speech about the marginalization of women in sports is not enough to make a major change in public perception of female athletes. But allowing prominent athletes to continue to discuss concerns like this to a wide audience is a major first step in the alteration of fan opinions and a reduction of disrespect toward female athletes.
Though all three of the women bring up the need for better media coverage of the WNBA, such as the way marketing and publicity at times ignore female athletes of color, or the constant assumptions that female basketball players are all lesbians and not very talented, they stop short of bringing up concrete solutions for these issues. For example, is there a realistic way to raise revenue for the WNBA or is this the hand they were dealt and now have to live with?
It is great to hear these successful and intelligent women bring forth these observations from their time in the league, but it would be nice to get to see them go a step further and ponder changes that could solve even some of these injustices. Maya Moore accomplished this on some level in her Players' Tribune essay from last spring.
At one point, Cash unleashes powerful thoughts that match the intensity and energy she has when on the court, and it feels like they have a splash of Geno Auriemma's trademark argumentative personality in them, too. She also touches on the tendency for major brands and sponsors to only highlight the women who look "classically pretty"—AKA caucasian and thin—an echo of the recent discourse surrounding the disparity between Serena Williams' sponsorship earnings versus Maria Sharapova's.
Selected quotes from Cash below followed by the full video:
On playing in the WNBA:
"We play because we love the game. We love the game. This is home. This is the best players in the world."
On playing basketball at UConn:
"I mean you can’t go to a mall or go somewhere where you’re not being recognized, people are asking for your autograph or for pictures. And they know pretty much everything about you. Freshman year they know everything about you."
On fan misconceptions about WNBA talent:
"It’s very difficult for me to have a conversation with Lebron James or be at the Olympics and talk to Kobe Bryant about basketball stuff and he respects and watches our game, but then to go past the YMCA and there’s a guy over there eating a donut telling me he can dunk on me and beat anyone in the WNBA. Like, your mind is not realistic. What’s going on in your head is not realistic."
On how far "equality" extends in women's sports:
"...I’m for all women. Not just a few. And not just the one’s who look pretty on camera. Because we all play a vital role in what our society’s going to be shaped as. We have young girls who play this game – black, white, Hispanic, Latino, Asian - it doesn’t matter. All shapes and sizes – small, big, tall – doesn’t matter. But if we don’t start showing them we care about all women and not just some women, we’re gonna have a problem on our hands."
Let us know what you think about these issues in the comments.