Why Does the WNBA Make it Hard to Care?
One word: Censorship.
by Clay Kallam
One of the more popular players in the WNBA is backup point guard Kristin Haynie – but good luck trying to find out anything about her status on wnba.com.
One of the best players in the WNBA, when healthy, is Cheryl Ford – but good luck trying to find out anything about her status on wnba.com.
In the past four seasons, Loree Moore started 123 games for the New York Liberty – but good luck trying to find out when, or if, she was released by New York. (She’s now on the Seattle Storm roster.)
This is stupidity, plain and simple. WNBA management understands (or at least we hope they do) one of the key differences between fans of its league, and fans of the NBA: There is a much stronger connection between fans and individual players in the women’s game than in the men’s. It’s not better, it’s not worse, but it is different, and the league needs to acknowledge that.
But how, for example, would a fan of Haynie know that she was on the Washington Mystics’ roster for a while? It wasn’t on the transactions page on wnba.com, and neither was her removal from that roster.
No one knows Ford’s status at all. Is she hurt? Is she healthy? Is she a cored player? Does her contract with Detroit still bind her to Tulsa, where the Shock moved?
Let me expand on the Ford case a little before moving on. Here is Ford, one of the most talented players in the league, a borderline Olympian and the daughter of Karl Malone. She was a prominent member of the Detroit Shock semi-dynasty and would have an enormous impact on any team in the league, especially Tulsa.
So search for “Cheryl Ford” on wnba.com and you get … nothing about her status. Of course the same could be said for Deanna Nolan, another elite player. Search for her, and you get the Tulsa Shock draft history, a list of key games in 2005 and an interview with Lynette Woodard.
That’s certainly keeping fans in touch with their favorites, isn’t it?
Granted, Nolan isn’t playing in the WNBA in 2010, but that doesn’t mean the league shouldn’t have something about that on its website, something that’s easily accessible to a Deanna Nolan fan. And if Ford isn’t playing, why not say so? If she’s not sure, say that too.
But apparently there’s a sense that censorship is crucial to the league’s survival, and that bad news must be treated as if it doesn’t exist. Nolan doesn’t want to play in Tulsa – she doesn’t exist. Ford is in negotiations – news blackout.
Why not just write the story? Why not let the fans know what’s going on?
Which leads directly to Loree Moore, an integral piece for the Liberty for four years. Why was there no announcement anywhere that she had been released?
Of course, people might have been upset. Of course, there might have been some angry emails – but isn’t that part of the fun of being a sports fan? Isn’t that what gets leagues onto SportsCenter, and into newspapers?
Overall, I think Donna Orender has done a fine job as commissioner, but this whole atmosphere of secrecy and information control actively hurts the league. Fans should be able to still see Kristin Haynie’s career stats, and they should have known when she was added to Washington’s roster, and when she was taken off.
Fans should know what Cheryl Ford’s status is, both health- and contract-wise.
And fans should have known the day Loree Moore was released by the Liberty, and Carol Blazejowski should have justified the move.
If the fans don’t know, they can’t care. And if they’re discouraged from caring, then they’re discouraged from being fans.
In the end, though, it’s not the fans who are the losers because of this ludicrous censorship: It’s the league itself, and in the long run, the sport of women’s basketball.