WNBA Basketball Needs Its Own Press Corps

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Angel Reese facing the camera; Caitlin Clark facing Reese and holding the ball

Laurie and Debbie say:

If you are not a sports fan, or a WNBA fan, here’s the groundwork:

The WNBA audience is currently growing astonishingly fast. This popularity is in part due to Caitlin Clark, a white player from Iowa currently playing for the Indiana Fever. Clark has set many records and has a huge fan base; she also does a great deal to promote the sport. Though Clark gets much more of the credit, Angel Reese is another key reason for the sport’s increasing viewership and excitement. Reese, a Black woman, plays for the Chicago Sky; she has also set many records and draws large crowds.

Jemele Hill is a reliably incisive and thoughtful Black sports reporter, currently running her own film and production company. In “The One Downside of Gender Equality in Sports,” she has Things to Say about the quality of reporting on Clark, Reese, the reputed feud between the two of them, and women’s basketball in general.  (Warning: the article may be behind the Atlantic’s paywall.) Aside from reading Hill’s article, I also heard her on the podcast A Word … with Jason Johnson, which I strongly recommend.

The arrival of a dynamite WNBA rookie class, headlined by the sensational Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, has prompted an explosion of coverage of women’s basketball. But—and perhaps I should have anticipated this—the surge in popularity has come at a cost. Ill-informed male sports analysts are suddenly chiming in about the league and its players, offering narratives untethered to facts and occasionally making me long for the days when the WNBA largely flew under the radar. …

A persistent theme has emerged that WNBA players, particularly the veterans, are jealous of Clark and resent the attention she has been getting, when they should be groveling at her feet. A few weeks ago, for example, the Hall of Fame former player and beloved commentator Charles Barkley accused WNBA players of being “petty” and declared, “Y’all should be thanking that girl for getting y’all ass private charters, all the money and visibility she’s bringing to the WNBA.”

Hill acknowledges the real rivalry between Clark and Reese, and goes into a recent incident which reveals some of the truth here. But …

In men’s sports, of course, tough defense, physical play, trash talk, and personal rivalries are celebrated, applauded, and marketed. NBA history is filled with stories of personal grudges, including some that featured plenty of dirty play and have lasted well past athletes’ playing days. (See: Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.) These stories are embraced and told with affection. In fact, one of the criticisms that some fans have of today’s NBA is that the players have gotten too friendly and the game itself too soft. When it comes to hard-nosed play against Clark, however, male pundits seem unable to see women as fierce competitors. They just see mean girls.

The commentary Hill critiques isn’t just about the supposed personal issues between the two players. One thing she said on the podcast is that the male reporters conflate competitiveness with jealousy. No one reaches the top of professional sports without being competitive, but you can be competitive without being either jealous or (one of the favorite words used about Reese and other Clark competitors) petty. Both jealousy and pettiness are stereotypically associated with women athletes — and with Black women.  These are, of course, as untrue and unfair as most stereotypes, and that (surprise!) doesn’t stop male reporters of any race from uplifting them as if they were facts.

And then there’s the not-quite-stated assumption that women’s sports are basically about theater, not excellence.

After Clark’s team lost its first several games of the season, for example, some male analysts suggested that the league should be rigged to allow Clark to succeed, for the benefit of the sport’s popularity.

“The WNBA is playing this all wrong,” the NBA journeyman Jeff Teague said on his podcast, Club 520. The league, he said, should mimic professional wrestling, pulling its punches against Clark. “It’s supposed to be like WWE. Y’all are supposed to play hard against her but let her kill.”

The Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd made a similar argument on the air a few weeks ago. The WNBA had erred, in his view, by making Clark play against strong competition to begin the season. “So they finally have this moment,” Cowherd said. “Don’t put Caitlin Clark up in the first four games against New York twice and Connecticut twice, the best defensive teams.”

Read the article to see Hill take that one apart.

Let’s close with Hill’s closing, in response to a male commentator being PO’ed because people expected him to know his facts.

Perhaps longtime women’s-sports fans should stop holding male pundits to even the most basic standards of knowledgeability. I mean, we wouldn’t want to appear ungrateful that men are finally paying attention. That would just be petty.


Debbie occasionally posts on Mastodon.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.



-scapes – Barcelona

We support a ceasefire in Palestine.

Laurie says:

I have 2 photographs in the exhibition -scapes, showing June 11–18, 2024 at the Valid World Hall Gallery in Barcelona. I just left the zoom opening this morning (June 11), where the curators and some of the photographers discussed the show. It was raining in Barcelona, but nevertheless the physical attendance at the gallery opening was encouraging.

To see all the photos in the exhibition go here.


Pandemic Shadows 106

Pandemic Shadows 117

There are various natural, artificial, and even staged scenes that seize the attention of photographers, compelling and inspiring them to pause, observe, and create an image to convey a personal interpretation of what they see. These types of photographs are known by a variety of names: landscapes, cityscapes, streetscapes, seascapes, waterscapes, cloudscapes, or even desertscapes, treescapes, bodyscapes, and so forth. Among these photographs, the most successful ones go well beyond the mere recording of the visual qualities of a place; they bear the marks of the interpretive insights of the photographer, prompting us to contemplate a scene as meaningful and significant. Merely re-presenting is never challenging; it requires a novel conception of the scene to engage us, viewers, through the keen eyes and creative mind of the photographer.

(This PH21 Gallery exhibition is presented in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, in collaboration with Valid World Hall Gallery, a renowned centre for the visual arts.)


Debbie occasionally posts on Mastodon.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.