Forbes removes story on increased investment into WNBA after NBA rebukes

By Pat Ralph

Forbes removed a story on increasing financial investment into the WNBA from its website on Tuesday, October 23rd after the NBA disapproved of the content of the article. The story was written by contributor David Berri, who frequently wrote about the economics of sports for the business-centric media organization.

curt miller alone.jpg

Berri, who works as an economics professor at Southern Utah University and has written multiple books on the topic, frequently covered the economics of the WNBA in his stories for 

Berri’s most recent story for Forbes was on the economic impact that an increased investment in the WNBA, on the part of the NBA, would have on the league’s growth and development. The WNBA is run and operated under the purview of the NBA. 

In his story, Berri wrote about the NBA’s recent financial investment into its minor league system called the G-League. Berri’s story also included a comparison in salaries between a G-League player who signs a select contract and a top-tier WNBA player, and he noted that the G-League player would make more money. He noted that the G-League, similar to the WNBA, is not considered a financial success. He then, therefore, made the case for the NBA investing in the growth and development of the WNBA like it has in the G-League’s future. “But if the NBA takes the same approach to the WNBA as it is taking with respect to the G-League, short-run profits stop being the primary focus,” Berri wrote. “Instead, a new focus develops where the WNBA invests in its players to ensure that the WNBA of the future is very much like the NBA we see today.”

After the story was written, it was published and run on at 9:00 a.m. ET on October 23rd. However, after the NBA complained about the content of Berri’s story to his editors, the story was removed from Forbes’ website shortly after noon on the same day. No one at Forbes edited the piece before it was published, according to Berri.

Berri and Forbes have since parted ways after the article was taken down and not re-run. The two parties were unable to come to an agreement over republishing the story and how it could be further improved and edited for publication.

“The article was removed because it failed to meet Forbes’ strict editorial standards for accuracy and fairness,” Forbes said in a statement to WNBAInsidr. “Specifically, the contributor intentionally omitted facts and context from an authoritative source that would have undermined his thesis. As a result, David Berri was removed as a Forbes contributor.” Berri told WNBAInsidr that the editor at Forbes failed to indicate to him which specific claims made by Berri undermined his argument and what changes needed to be made. Berri said that he asked his editor to make specific changes, and the editor refused.

The removal of Berri’s story comes at a pivotal time for the WNBA. The decision for either the league or the players union to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must be made by November 1st. If either chooses to opt out of the agreement, the CBA will be voided following the 2019 season. 

The current CBA, which was signed in 2014 and is set to run through 2021, is expected to be voided by a vote to opt out by the WNBPA. The players reportedly casted their ballots on the issue earlier this month. While it is unclear yet whether or not the players will opt out, it is believed by most that they will.

Furthermore, the WNBA is currently without a president after former president Lisa Borders stepped down to become the CEO of Time’s Up earlier this month. Deputy NBA commissioner Mark Tatum is currently the interim president of the league.

Many of the topics that Berri has written about and covered for Forbes, including in the story that was removed from the site, are issues that WNBA players have vigorously advocated for. If opting out, the players will be looking for an increase in salaries and an improvement in travel conditions, among other potential reforms.