On the Continuum: Women’s Sports

by Melissa Silverstein on January 21, 2010

in Sports

I went to a lunch earlier this week where Donna Orender, the President of the WNBA was the speaker.  It was a small group of women from a diversity of professions.  She talked about her life and how she has gotten to where she is now.

A little background on Donna: she played basketball for Queens College and worked on the PGA Tour before coming over to the WNBA.

What struck me most during the conversation is how the issues she is dealing with regarding building up the brand of the WNBA and women’s sports in general are the same issues we all talk about in the entertainment business.

She talked about how that women’s sports is one of litmus tests in how the culture talks about women.

She described herself as a cultural anthropologist, and believes we are on the edge of a cultural revolution.

She talked about getting sponsors and how based on her numbers and the growth that it should be a no brainer, she should sign every sponsor.  But she doesn’t, and the league struggles.  Teams disband (Sacramento and Detroit) and new teams crop up (Tulsa and Atlanta).  She needs to educate potential investors about how different the women’s sports model is from the men’s.  And every single year she has to reinvent the wheel.

Most importantly, she talked about how important it is for people to watch the game and also to attend games in the arena.  You gotta “actively support with your eyeballs and dollars.”

We are all fighting the same fight.  We have to support with our dollars and with our TV time.  The game has improved tremendously and watching the young women players develop from the college game (where basically 100% of them get degrees unlike the guys) to the pro game is great to see.

Women’s sports, like entertainment, opens people’s minds to seeing women in new and different roles.  I have been a crappy fan.  I haven’t gone to a game in a while.  This season (no matter how bad the NY Liberty are) I will be in the stands as much as I can.   I’m glad Donna reminded me of that.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist January 21, 2010 at 12:24 PM

I support female athletes and I am proud of them!!! We should all be supportive of WNBA and female athletes in all sports and try to attend as many games to bring in money and emotional support!

It really angers me when in this age, guys still talk shit about WNBA and mock female athletes. Two words for these people– F–K YOU.

MarianK January 21, 2010 at 5:01 PM

This current article at the UK’s ‘F-word’ site makes good bookend reading for this post: ‘A question of (sexism in) sport’ http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2009/12/a_question_of_s

Katie January 21, 2010 at 10:54 PM

You know what’s disappointing as well. Even sports where there appears to be some level of equality such as tennis has disparity. Tournaments still reward men with larger winnings then women except for the US Open where women are compensated equally. Thanks to Ms. Billie Jean King.

Unfortunately people the lack of support for women’s sports goes back all the way to young girls. THey can play soccer and little league equally in many places which is great but by the time you reach high school, the MALE basketball, baseball, and football teams get far more support and attention than girls basketball and softball and college even moreso. Although women’s NCAA basketball has been gaining momentum these past few years. The WNBA seems to have been an uphill battle for years and it continues.

yolanda January 23, 2010 at 10:21 PM

I wish that if Donna Orender has to educate investors that want to be apart of the WNBA, at least she can do is remind the investors that they need to invest their money as a RECREATION/SPORTS/ENTERTAINMENT instead of the GET RICH QUICK SCHEME. It is true that these owners are not going to turn a profit while owning a WNBA team right away. ITS NOT GOING TO BE EASY! I am starting to get used to the idea of these independent owners who are investing in a WNBA team only so that they can spend more energy and time in putting a great product with (a bonafide star) on the court, that is putting up those W’s that fans want to see so that the sponsors can come a runnin with their support. After all, Good teams=FAN DOLLARS=SPONSORS=RESPECT and that includes in Womens Sports.

Roger Rodriges September 21, 2011 at 4:02 AM

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acting class los angeles January 23, 2012 at 1:40 PM

I haven’t heard of Donna Orender, she seems like an amazing lady!


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