With no new President in sight, the WNBA is a ship without a captain
By Lyndsey Darcangelo
Imagine if Roger Goodell suddenly stepped down from his role as commissioner of the NFL. The news would be the top trending topic on twitter and the lead topic of discussion on every sports talk radio and television show. The same could be said of Adam Silver and the NBA. Because of that discussion and subsequent information from reporters, we’d know in some shape or form what was going on—even if it were just speculation.
Yet, that’s not exactly where we are with the WNBA.
Lisa Borders spent three seasons as the president of the WNBA before leaving at the end of the 2018 season to pursue a position as chief executive and president of Time’s Up—an advocacy organization for women in the workplace. (Borders has since left that position due to a conflict of interest). This happened in October. As we move into March and head into spring, there still hasn’t been any news, updates or an official announcement regarding who is taking over as president. A recent inquiry with the WNBA revealed no new information, just a short email stating:
“For planning purposes only, we do not have anything to announce at this time regarding the new W President but will definitely stay in touch when we do.”
The last piece of news regarding any changes in the WNBA front office was a press release in early February, announcing the hiring of Christin Hedgpath as the new WNBA COO. As far as anyone knows, WNBA interim president Mark Tatum is still assuming said role.
The 2019 WNBA season kicks off on May 24th and the 2019 WNBA Draft is scheduled for April—exact date has yet to be announced. It’s hard to fathom that a professional sports league would enter peak women’s basketball season without someone guiding the ship, especially when it is poised to capitalize on the growth and evolution it has achieved over the past few years. The WNBA is in desperate need of someone to help steer it in the right direction, build on that momentum and reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players that is beneficial for all sides. More importantly, the next president needs to be someone who is fully invested in furthering the growth and evolution of professional women’s basketball, which is paramount to the bigger picture. But as far as we know, no one has been appointed and questions remain.
Where is the search at in this point in time? Is it not the top priority? Are there a handful of candidates? Is it down to two? Do the candidates come from sports-related backgrounds or did they previously serve as CEOs of other companies and organizations? Is the WNBA hoping to promote someone inhouse? Will Tatum eventually take over regardless?
Those of us who cover and write about the WNBA are curious and confused. With all the secrecy, it’s hard not to wonder what is actually happening behind the scenes. The WNBA can often be tightlipped when fielding questions about marketing or lack thereof. But this isn’t a question about getting more creative when promoting players or lack of available youth jersey sizes for young fans, it’s about the future of the WNBA itself. The lack of transparency from the league is concerning. It’s been almost five months since Borders left. That’s five months with no new news or updates regarding the search. Perhaps the WNBA is simply taking its time and doing its due diligence in order to make sure they hire the right person for the job. Or maybe they’ve already found someone and are busy mapping out a game plan for the upcoming season.
Whatever the case may be, it would be advantageous for the league to make an announcement soon. A ship without a captain can only drift for so long before it begins to lose its course.