New season has WNBA dealing with ugly publicity
On an overcast Wednesday afternoon in the Acela Club, the Washington Mystics are bagging up snacks for charity. On the table are candy bars, fruit cups and juice boxes. Kara Lawson leads the pack to the assembly line, rocking a dope pair of Nike Air Maxes. Their goal for the day is 805 meals. “I mean, can we get some music?” someone says. “Y’all got that new Boosie?” Ivory Latta jokes. Emma Meesseman asks Stefanie Dolson to sing the group a song.
It was just another WNBA Cares event at Verizon Center, but going into this season the entire league and this team are in a different position. Having made the playoffs the past two years after a five-win campaign in 2012, they’ve got as good a shot as any team in the Eastern Conference.
Yet for perhaps first time, controversies are the biggest story lines of the WNBA as the season gets underway. In April, Brittney Griner, one of the league’s biggest stars, was arrested along with her wife, Glory Johnson, another player in the league, in a domestic violence incident. Johnson then announced she was pregnant, after which Griner said she was trying to get the marriage annulled.
The New York Liberty made the quizzical decision to bring in Isiah Thomas as president and part owner. If you forgot, the NBA Hall of Famer was embroiled in a lawsuit when he was president of the New York Knicks that resulted in a 2007 verdict finding Thomas and Madison Square Garden liable for sexual harassment.
All of this leads to the question: Is any publicity good publicity for the WNBA?
“In the WNBA, I think we deal with real issues. Just like the other sports leagues do,” Lawson said Wednesday. “I don’t know if that surprises people or whatever, but if you want to be covered like a real sports league, then your issues are going to be out there.
“Obviously I don’t think either of the cases are the best thing, but I think it’s actually a positive in the sense that we’re being covered for all of our flaws, too. Which is what you should be as a league and as a player.”
For the Mystics, specifically, there’s an argument that anything that helps get people in the building is a plus.
In a town that loves its basketball in all respects, the Mystics are still fighting for relevancy.
Latta just hopes people can see past the negative headlines. “We got some hoopers out there. It’s a great league. We do need really good coverage. . . . I just feel like we work as hard as any other athletes on the floor, day and day out.”