It was the second-most viewed Sweet 16 game on record as more than 1.6 million had their popcorn out to watch Connecticut and Iowa, featuring respective star freshmen Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark, in the NCAA women’s basketball Sweet 16 last weekend.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was one of them and toward the end of the UConn’s win he posted a series of tweets touching on the pay gap and lack of media exposure to women’s sports. He called on women to fix the problem and be the ones to push companies and leagues to give them more.
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier were among those to push back on the tweets immediately and explain the work they’ve been doing. WNBA Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike was asked about it while at Team USA camp and said it feeds into the “miseducation and ignorance” she sees on the subject.
Ogwumike: Green’s comments miseducated
The Los Angeles Sparks forward was one of six players — or “lady hoopers” — Green tagged in his tweet sharing “some thoughts.” She was asked her thoughts on the tweets and looped in the previous week’s conversation about lowering the rims in the women’s game. That was prompted by Shaquille O’Neal talking to Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker, Ogwumike’s former teammate, on “NBA on TNT.”
Ogwumike’s comments in full:
“To be honest, I feel as though comments like that — which were kind of followed a few days later from Shaq’s comments to Candace [Parker] about lowering the rim — I think what I’m feeling is a lot of miseducation and ignorance. I’m always careful about using the word ‘ignorance’ because I think we’ve grown up to believe that it has a negative connotation when it really doesn’t. And it’s great to know that there’s allies out there that are seeking to see the women’s games better and the women’s business be better in sport. But I do think that a lot of that education and dispelling of the ignorance that we experience just on an individual level, it can really be kind of dissolved by us having conversations.
“So with that, I’m very, very, very, very tired of people attacking each other, especially on social media. And I want a lot of people to understand that cancel culture and exclusivity is something that is not helping us move in any direction. Although we’re in a time now where we need to make space for people who are directly experiencing the inequities and also allowing those who have the power to understand how they can use their power to see things move forward.
“When that comes to women in sport, I do appreciate Draymond coming out and using his platform to talk about it. I would like to take it a step further and say hey, let’s continue the discussions, even if they’re offline, for us to really figure out how we can really move forward in a way that’s not just helpful for women in sport, but also for everybody because it helps everyone when those who aren’t getting the most attention or most space, rise.”
Green doubles down on comments
Green doubled down on his remarks in a nine-minute comment after practice on Wednesday, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole. He reiterated his stance that women are “complaining” about the difference in pay between WNBA players and NBA players. When a reporter pointed out they are trying to rectify an inequality, he disagreed and continued to explain the issue as complaining.
He again brought up that everyone knows the story of LeBron James, but not Diana Taurasi, and that marketing helps connect a fan to a player.
“So, then, if they don’t put money toward marketing women, the revenue never grows,” he continued, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And it falls and deaf ears and comes across as a complaint because no one is going to act on it. If no one acts on it, and you keep saying the same thing over and over, it’s going to come off as a complaint – as opposed to holding these people accountable that say ‘We support women. Women empowerment this, we’re doing all of these things for Women’s Empowerment Month,’ but they don’t put their money behind it.”
He said he wants WNBA players to call out specific companies who say “women’s empowerment” but don’t monetarily support the WNBA or its players in some way.
WNBA players cite issues with Green’s remarks
Green’s larger ideas are objectively correct. Marketing, and specifically getting to know players, is a large factor in viewership and overall interest. Companies that say they stand for women, should actually monetarily stand for women. The WNBA does need proper funding and story telling to grow.
Players and fans took issue with parts of Green’s comments, mainly that he was blaming the players themselves for not doing more. Collier, a former UConn star and Minnesota Lynx Rookie of the Year, thanked Green for joining the conversation in a tweet.
“The NBA and its players are the only ones sitting at these tables from a position of power,” she wrote. “So if we really want to hold companies feet to the fire, y’all are the only ones with the leverage to really put these changes in motion.”
Rapinoe also noted in a series of tweets that men are the “gatekeepers to that money, investment, resources, capital, time and sponsorship dollars” and men listen to other men.
The Sweet 16 matchup between UConn and Iowa was the first of two on ABC that afternoon, a big deal in itself, and both eclipsed the 1 million average viewer mark. The 2021 tournament is the first since 1995 to air on a broadcast station, which reaches more homes than cable. Previous tournaments have put games on secondary ESPN channels, limiting exposure and access.
Women have consistently asked for more and pointed out the same problems. Some of them, such as WNBA superstar Sue Bird and former USWNT national soccer team stars, have started their own companies to promote and share stories of women’s athletes as an answer to the issue.
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