Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a WNBA newsmaker. This week she speaks with league president Laurel J. Richie, who enters the second part of the season juggling team-relocation announcements and improving outreach.
Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a WNBA newsmaker. This week she speaks with league president Laurel J. Richie, who enters the second part of the season juggling team-relocation announcements and improving outreach. Richie is in her fifth season as league president.
Question: The league’s owners unanimously approved the Tulsa Shock’s move to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, playing next season at the 7,000-seat College Park Center on Texas-Arlington’s campus. The minority owners of the team are displeased with majority owner Bill Cameron’s decision. Any chance Tulsa gets an expansion team?
Answer: We’re planning to form a subcommittee of our board to really take a look at how we would approach expansion. There’s no question that Tulsa and the fans of Tulsa have been very supportive for the six years that the team has been there. (But) expansion is still a couple of years down the road. What I’m looking to do is start to put the formal process together. One of the things that we will ask of that subcommittee is to think about the timing.
Q: All of your teams aren’t profitable now. What is motivating your desire to expand?
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A: It’s a reflection of where the league is today. The level of talent and depth of talent coming into the league is at an all-time high. There’s the expressions of interest from potential owners. And cities and municipalities have expressed interest in bringing a WNBA team to their city.
Q: The league has reported increases in viewership, but not many games are aired nationally. Any chance that changes?
A: We’re in a long-term agreement with ESPN, and the way we like to look at it is, games are absolutely the cornerstone of that, but there are lots of opportunities given the breadth and depth of the ESPN network — both broadcast, online and digital. We work very closely with them to, in addition to the games we broadcast, think about and explore ways to increase our presence and our coverage.
Q: Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi are the latest high-profile WNBA players to miss parts or all of the season to rest their bodies due to year-round play. Is this an issue the league needs to address?
A: It’s a reality of the global women’s basketball community. We (the WNBA and overseas leagues) do a really good job of working together and being conscious of each other’s schedule. I firmly believe that players do and should continue to make decisions that are in their best interest and balance their love of the game, passion for the game and taking care of themselves. What I feel terrific about is the depth of talent in the league is at such a level that I remain proud of the product that we put on the floor.
Q: You’ve spoken about wanting more media coverage, but I’m a little disappointed in your social-media presence. No Facebook and barely 100 tweets since you joined Twitter in 2011. Why is that?
A: I have a 16-year-old staying with me for the month of July and she said the same, so you are not alone in that assessment. I need to step my Twitter game up. It’s not that I don’t think about it. I’m a huge tennis fan, and I was watching Serena Williams and thought, “I’m running a major women’s sports league, I ought to give her a shout out.” … It’s like any other new skill — you just need to stick with it.
Jayda Evans’ WNBA power rankings
|Last week’s rankings in parentheses|
|1. (1)||Chicago||Nabbed Brazilian Olympian Erika de Souza in three-team trade with Minnesota and Atlanta.|
|2. (2)||Minnesota||Sylvia Fowles ended contract holdout, signed with Lynx in three-team trade from Chicago.|
|3. (3)||New York||Inducting former All-Star Becky Hammon, now an NBA assistant coach, into Ring of Honor.|
|4. (4)||Phoenix||Hosts Chicago on Tuesday in rematch of 2014 WNBA Finals; Mercury swept series for the title.|
|5. (6)||Indiana||Tamika Catchings became the all-time leading scorer in the All-Star Game with 108 total points.|
|6. (7)||Washington||On three-game winning streak, hosts Seattle on Wednesday to begin second part of the season.|
|7. (5)||Tulsa||Board of Governors unanimously approved relocation to Dallas area, third move overall for franchise.|
|8. (8)||Seattle||Japanese rookie Ramu Tokashiki averaging 13 points on 52.3 percent shooting in four starts.|
|9. (10)||Connecticut||Opens second part of the season playing six of its upcoming eight games at home.|
|10. (9)||Atlanta||Received young posts Damiris Dantas and Reshanda Gray and future draft pick via three-team trade.|
|11. (11)||San Antonio||Starter Jia Perkins (calf) expected back, but starter Dearica Hamby (ankle) possibly out.|
|12. (12)||Los Angeles||Signed first-round draft pick Crystal Bradford, who missed first half of season because of injury.|