IT is time for sports fans to embrace the facts of life: The WNBA is a major sports league.
In the joyous aftermath of what many will remember as the greatest football game in Seahawks history, my friends and I were surprised to hear local news outlets report that this was the first national championship a Seattle team has brought home since the Sonics’ 1979 triumph.
We watched networks venerate photos of men in retro basketball attire, yet heard no mention of the Seattle Storm’s recent 2004 and 2010 national championship wins.
The message from the male-dominated sports media is clear: Women’s sports don’t matter. In the broadcasts I watched after the football game, news announcers failed to qualify their discussions of former Seattle victories with the phrase “men’s sports,” let alone include any mention of the Storm.
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The WNBA’s game-day invisibility was no surprise given anticipatory pregame articles such as Mike Frandsen’s piece in Bleacher Report, which describes Seattle’s lunge toward its “first major sports championship” since the 1970s, without any mention of the Storm’s successes.
A postgame report from the Toronto Star
sneaks in a note of the Storm’s championship wins in its fourth paragraph, yet still labels the Seahawks victory as Seattle’s “first major sports title since 1979.”
Seattleites like my family, my friends and I take pride in the Storm, and it’s time for sports writers and reporters to dig up the stories we want to hear.
Where’s the nostalgic play-by-play recap of the Storm’s two recent championship games? Where are the sports announcers reminiscing over photos of the star players who brought our WNBA team to national victory twice in seven years?
Initiatives such as The Representation Project’s #NotBuyingIt campaign have bolstered awareness about sexist themes in advertising during athletic events. But we must also remember the movement that brought institutions like Title IX and the WNBA into our society.
Local efforts such as STAR 101.5 radio station’s giveaway of “12th Woman” paraphernalia have drawn worthy attention to the exclusionary term “12th Man,” but we are still waiting for a campaign to promote equal consideration of male and female fans.
Welcome women not just as spectators, but as players in major, competitive, professional sports. As the employee of a youth-focused organization, I have seen the inspiration, joy and empowerment that sports bring to our communities, especially to our children and adolescents.
All sports lovers should feel like there’s a place for them in the athletics community. Recognizing the Storm as a major team is a good first step toward extending that welcome to non-male athletes and fans.
The media should recognize the WNBA as a major sports league, especially in Seattle where its players have won more national championships in the last decade than the Mariners, Seahawks and former Sonics combined.
When we deny the most professionalized women’s sports league in the country the status of “major,” we take the sexist stance that no woman is deserving of serious recognition for her athletic prowess.
A WNBA player can be taller, faster and an all-around better basketball player than an NBA player. But for now, she will never experience the press or prestige of winning a “major” title, simply because she is a woman.
Let’s be thoughtful when discussing sports with the people in our lives, especially the young. Let’s make it clear that sports are for everyone, not just for men. And next time a Seattle sports team brings home sweet victory, let’s celebrate all past professional athletes who have brought pride and national recognition to our beautiful city, Storm players included.
“Why not us?” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson asked. Maybe the real question here is, “Why not women?”
Elaine Albertson grew up in Woodinville and now works at a Seattle education nonprofit.