Why a Distance Runner is Tuning into the WNBA Playoffs
The truth is... basketball was my first love far before running. I grew up spending every weekend at tournaments, summers at basketball camps, and evenings in the backyard doing ball handling drills between cones. It taught me to be gritty, tough, and it taught me to foster passion. All of which has helped me succeed as a runner.
A few months back, scrolling through twitter, I kept seeing tweets about the WNBA pay gap debate. Tweets from professionals taking a stand and saying they deserve higher pay. This is being contested by thousands of internet critics:
Inform yourself on the players. The women, daughters and mothers of this league. The incredible athletes, olympians and all stars. Go to a game. Try it out. Stop sitting behind a keyboard telling me about myself and the other 143 women I work with. Bc. You know nothing.
— Kayla McBride (@kaymac_2123) July 6, 2018
The questions we SHOULD be asking in regards to the pay gap between WNBA and NBA players ARE not WHY WNBA players are paid less we should be asking HOW and WHAT we can do as a business to grow our game so that players will be better compensated...
— Monique Currie (@Mocurrie25) July 9, 2018
.@dame_lillard on the @WNBA: “They deserve a lot more respect. They deserve to make a lot more money than they do. I think it’s time people start recognizing that they are professional athletes and they should be treated like it and their league should be elevated...” pic.twitter.com/QHgst1dSjI
— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) July 8, 2018
— Wealthsimple (@Wealthsimple) August 21, 2018
I couldn’t help but get sucked into the ugly vortex of internet threads with some comments as mind-blowing as telling players to find their way back to the kitchen. The WNBA players taking a stand explain that they aren't asking for or expecting the exact same salary as NBA players, but instead the same percentage of revenue (NBA players get 50% WNBA players get 25%). To put it into perspective, Diana Taurasi, the GOAT of women's basketball makes 1/3rd the salary of an NBA benchwarmer. It's frustrating that the players are told repeatedly... “it’s not the same game, it’s not as impressive, they don’t have the same number of fans, it’s not entertainment...” and the list of differences between the men and the women continue. All coming from men who don't appear to be professional basketball players themselves (or even college basketball players).
I couldn’t help but think back to when I was 9 years old sitting in the stands, enthralled as I watched the Seattle Storm hold up the Championship trophy with confetti streaming down. It was that moment that I realized I was going to be a WNBA player, the next Sue Bird to be exact… which clearly didn’t pan out even though I declared that future title for years to come. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that witnessing that moment made me, a young girl, believe it was possible. That moment made me believe I could be exceptional.
The President of the WNBA Lisa Borders responded to critics perfectly in Forbes The Business of Being a WNBA Player by Paulana Lamonier.
“People do not believe that women can be superb professional athletes. That frankly is an ignorant perspective, but if you haven't had the opportunity to see a game, a player, or experienced the game, then perhaps you have an uninformed perspective. We invite folks into the area to actually see a game."
Love elevating women? Take time to watch a game. I love to champion women in running. Women like Lauren, Kara, Shalane, Desi, Emma, and Shelby - all who are paving the way for future female runners. But it’s also important to champion other professional athletes who are paving the way for another group of young talented women.
And the best way to do that? Tune in. The WNBA playoffs start tonight and despite what critics may say, these women CAN play and it will be entertaining.
Here’s to showing up,
(Only partially influenced by the fact the Seattle Storm is absolutely crushing it this season and probably going to win a championship title)