Lower Rims, Revealing Uniforms?
NBA players need to voice concern for the women’s game.
by Ben York / @bjyork
The only problem with women’s basketball is that people think there is something wrong with it. And, in an ironic twist of fate, the way FIBA wants to advance women’s basketball could actually contribute to its decline.
First, let’s get something straight. Women play sports for the same reasons men do — to compete, to succeed and to win. These innate feelings aren’t limited just to men; they are present in all human beings. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that as a global society there is a conscious yet unnecessary effort to “fix” what’s “wrong” with women’s sports.
Recently, over 50 countries came together at the first ever women’s basketball summit. There were a multitude of topics discussed but the ones grabbing headlines included suggestions of lowering the rims and modifying uniforms. While these topics have been a hot-button issue of late, it’s certainly nothing new to fans of women’s basketball. Lowering the rims and modifying (a.k.a. “sexifying”) women’s basketball uniforms have long been debated about on an informal basis and typically dismissed with hilarity. After all, those usually leading the discussion are people who think these “radical” ideas would lead to better play, more viewers, and increased appeal to the general public.
FIBA, and its representatives, tries to come across as nonchalant as possible in regards to these topics. They defended the inevitable backlash by saying the ideas are just potential ways of improving the game; that it would be more “attractive” if it were played above the rim.
This insinuates that women are having difficulties making shots on a 10-foot hoop. Ridiculous. And “improving” the uniforms? What’s wrong with them now?
If there is any good news regarding these statements, it’s that we won’t ever see this implemented in the WNBA. Still, with so many WNBA players having to head overseas to compensate financially, these proposed “advancements” affect the vast majority of professional women’s basketball players.
Let’s translate the true meaning behind these suggestions, shall we?
Asinine Idea #1: Lowering the rims
What it Really Means: By lowering the rims, it becomes easier for these “lesser” players (as FIBA apparently thinks of them) to dunk. Thus, it makes the game more masculine and flashy. By making the game more mainstream and masculine the sub-par play of women’s basketball could be “fixed.”
Fixing the game…ugh.
What’s wrong with it now? I realize it’s not as popular as the NBA. I know that the vast majority of the game is played below the rim. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong; it’s just different.
I’m growing increasingly tired of the assertion that it needs help. Maybe what’s worse is that people look at the game and pity it to a certain extent. Even the mere notion of trying to “help” it evokes an attitude of superiority and narcissism.
Let’s say the rim is indeed lowered. Would that be good enough for the game’s detractors? Sure, maybe there would be more dunking but after a while, wouldn’t people knock the WNBA players for not throwing down 360s or windmills consistently?
Asinine Idea #2: Modifying Uniforms.
What it Really Means: Sex sells. They’ll tell you there isn’t anything wrong with making women players more feminine. They’ll tell you that’s how it should be. But the real reason that uniform changes are being discussed is because of a desire to sexify the game and, supposedly, make it more enjoyable for men to watch – who, theoretically, are a key demographic.
I’m not a perfect person, but as a man, this absolutely infuriates me and is the suggestion to which I take far more offense. How degrading have we become as a society to make it mandatory for women to wear sexier basketball uniforms?
Luckily, I’m not alone.
Jeff Pearlman of SI.com came under fire recently for an article that questioned the lasting popularity of the WNBA. While we don’t agree on a lot of things that are related to women’s basketball, this is one issue we see eye to eye on.
“I think it’s disgusting and disturbing,” Pearlman said. “If FIBA’s members want to baby women who play basketball at this high of a level, and cheapen the game with sex-appeal bullshit in the process, they should quit their posts and apply for jobs with Hugh Heffner.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
It sounds tired, but these supposed improvements only aim to please a small amount of potential fans and the continual seeking-to-please attitude is growing old. Women’s basketball doesn’t need men to survive or advance, it needs time. We’re essentially still in the first generation of professional women’s players and we’ve already seen dramatic improvements in the quality and appeal of the game.
As a man, you’re either you’re going to accept the women’s game or not. Skimpier uniforms won’t lead to men accepting the game. All it does is continue the objectification of women in sports. Don’t get me wrong, dunking is great and can be exciting. Having said that, Shawn Bradley could dunk, but the dude obviously wasn’t a basketball player. The WNBA has bona-fide basketball players who know how to play the game.
Lowering the rim and encouraging skimpy uniforms doesn’t make me want to watch women’s basketball; the quality of play does. Diana Taurasi does. Cappie Pondexter does. Tamika Catchings does. Candace Parker does.
Before making these abrasive decisions, FIBA needs to ask itself if it’s worth losing the die-hards to gain a false sense of security. Rather than lowering the rims and modifying uniforms, why don’t we talk about ways to increase funding for the globalization of women’s basketball? Why don’t we look at proven methods to increase salaries for WNBA players so they don’t have to live out of the country for half the year? The only way to advance the league starts with creating a more permanent presence in their local communities. If they’re forced to leave the country immediately after the WNBA season ends, any momentum they’ve created in the summer fizzles out when they head to Russia, Australia, Turkey, etc.
Keep in mind, this was the first ever women’s basketball summit — why not talk about better ways to market players to increase face-time and popularity through television, radio, and virtually every other form of media? Instead, we’re left with the same old ideas that have plagued the women’s game for dozens of years.
This is where NBA players need to step up and defend the women’s game.
Not in a fake, pre-written press release but in a random interview. On Twitter. On Facebook. On their websites. Someone needs to take the initiative and settle this once and for all that the women’s game is no joke. Judging by this recent turn of events, there has never been a better time than now to show their support for the league. We already know how many players go to the games; it happens every year with the Suns, Hawks, Pacers, etc. This time, we need a player to voluntarily come out and say how demeaning and ridiculous it is for lowering the rims to even be considered by FIBA. Although this won’t necessarily affect the WNBA, it’s the principal of the situation that necessitates a passionate and honest response.
We already know NBA players are watching the women’s game. I counted over 10 NBA player twitter accounts that, during the WNBA Playoffs and Finals, analyzed the games and expressed their excitement to watch. Players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Jonny Flynn all have expressed their interest and admiration of the women’s game to a certain extent in recent months. In fact, in April 2010, Dwyane Wade said on his Twitter account that it’s an honor that Cappie Pondexter is known as the DWade of the WNBA.
Let me reiterate. I’m not asking for men to rush in and validate the league. Women’s basketball doesn’t need justification and certainly doesn’t need approval. It’s no secret that NBA players watch and respect the women’s game. They know it’s different than the game they play, but it doesn’t matter – they love the sport. Basketball is basketball. I can write about the value and worth of the WNBA until I’m blue in the face but it won’t make nearly the dent that a passionate response from a NBA player would.
So, here’s your chance, NBA. Step up. Take a stand. We don’t need you to “save” the WNBA, but some brazen support would be nice and mean more than you know.
If you don’t, who else will?