WNBA, Chicago Sky, Ticket Sales, Reese, Angle, Kamila, Cardoso, Caitlin Clark

WNBA Preseason Livestream Fiasco Spotlights Need For Improved Visibility Of Black Players

Hello, WNBA: A fan's livestream drew 2 million.

Although the WNBA’s League Pass service appeared to promise fans a chance to see its newly drafted stars Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso, and Alissa Pili square off, fans had to settle for a May 3 livestream of the game on Twitter/X. The WNBA was also supposed to make the game available on YouTube, but that also did not happen, frustrating some fans like Alli Schneider. Schneider, who was in attendance at the game, decided to livestream it, and her stream of the game pulled in more than 2 million views as of May 4.

As The Athletic reports, coaches from both sides, Cheryl Reeve of the Lynx and Theresa Weatherspoon of the Sky, voiced their excitement for the growth of the game and the missed opportunity from the WNBA to capitalize on the early momentum. 

Reeve briefly discussed the WNBA’s broadcast limitations, telling reporters postgame, ”The growth is happening so fast; it’s so accelerated. Business as usual isn’t going to work anymore; you’re going to get left behind. “This is an example. … We have to capitalize on those things.”

Weatherspoon was a little more charitable, offering a bright side analysis, saying that the high demand for the game is good, even if the WNBA seemed unprepared to capitalize. “We would love for us to be on and for everyone to take a look, especially for this team; you have a great group of young women who are exciting to watch play. Tonight, we had an opportunity to kind of get a feel for where we are and what we need to do. It’s awesome to know that a lot of people really tuned in.”

The Sky’s newly acquired draft picks, South Carolina’s Kamila Cardoso and LSU’s Angel Reese had solid debuts, Reese nearly logged a double double in 24 minutes, compiling 13 points and securing nine rebounds. On the other hand, Cardoso played sparingly, only logging 13 minutes while chipping in six points and four rebounds in a bench role. Pili, drafted by the Lynx, struggled from the field and went 1/7 from the floor. The WNBA apologized for its error on social media, which it attributed to an error on its site that misled fans. They continued the post, encouraging fans to watch Caitlin Clark make her WNBA debut, which was not taken well by fans of the league. 

Reeve, for her part, included a hashtag, #theWismorethanoneplayer, in a post about the matchup ahead of the game, which was interpreted by many as a shot at the WNBA’s saturation of Clark to the detriment of the league’s many other stars and the respective fan bases of the 11 other franchises in the WNBA. The Athletic spoke to Schneider, who was surprised at the massive increase in engagement from last year’s livestream she conducted. “I actually did it last year too because the Lynx had a preseason game that was again not selected for any sort of coverage,” she told The Athletic. “So I did it last year for a couple of friends and I had maybe 80 people total watch, so I figured I’d try again this year and see if maybe that’s something people want. And apparently, it was.”

“I was just flabbergasted,” Schneider continued. “We were watching the numbers climb while the game went on, but I couldn’t look at Twitter while the livestream was happening, so I just saw all of it afterward. I had no idea that it had been retweeted that many times or that Sue Bird had quote-tweeted me. I had to slowly catch up to so many people reaching out to me in my DMs; there were so many notifications.”

Some, like USA Today columnist Mike Freeman, have called attention to the league’s spotty record of promoting its Black players, who make up a majority of the league’s players, and even its current best player, Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, has not been immune. As Freeman writes in his column discussing the racial politics of shoe deals in the WNBA, “Stardom propels shoe deals, but also, shoe contracts, like a signature shoe, drive stardom. If you believe the only reason three (and likely soon four) white women are getting the shoes because they just happen to be more marketable, well, you’re a fool.”

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