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Is the WNBA is in Crisis?

Almost every time I click on my “explore” page on Instagram, I see a post telling me that yet another WNBA team has either waived a player and/or signed a player on a hardship contract. When I say every time, I definitely mean EVERY. TIME. 

Coming off the 2021 Chicago Sky championship winning season, I was expecting the league to have a burst of growth in popularity, players’ salary, league promotion, and team rosters. I was genuinely excited to witness the 2022 WNBA season, and so far, I have been disappointed. 

 

The 2022 WNBA Draft ushered absolutely amazing players like Nalyssa Smith, Shakira Austin and Rhyne Howard into the league. All three rounds of the WNBA Draft were filled with impressive players who all boasted multiple layers to their game. Even during the draft there were telltale signs that things might be off. Several players who were drafted in the second and third rounds should have been in the first. Destanni Henderson from South Carolina, for example. After dominating the frontcourt for South Carolina and leading them to a national championship, she was the 2nd round, 20th overall pick for the Indiana Fever. I could not believe it when it was happening.

Regardless of my feelings about the draft and how the selections were ordered, I still had hope. I was genuinely excited to see how newer players meshed with more established teams like the Chicago Sky, the Los Angeles Sparks, and the Phoenix Mercury. I was also eager to see how the newer players incorporated their distinctive strengths into their performances on these teams. For the players that were going to teams that were looking to rebuild and/or redefine their playing styles, I was eager to see how these rookies might establish themselves and take on leadership roles for their team’s offense and/or defense. 

All of these hopes pretty much came crashing down when I saw that the Los Angeles Sparks waived Te’a Cooper and the Chicago Sky waived Kaela Davis. While the inevitability of life sometimes asks us to make hard calls, I just find it absolutely wild that (1) the Sparks would even find the audacity to waive Te’a Cooper, a guard who can easily produce solid minutes and pop off in a game at an instant and (2) a team just coming off a championship is even waiving anybody. I thought the WNBA team transactions couldn’t and wouldn’t be more surprising after that, and boyy, was I wrong!!! 

Second Round draft picks, Christyn Williams, Elisa Cunane and Evina Westbrook were waived by the Washington Mystics and Seattle Storm, respectively. Never have I ever seen high placed second-round picks waived before the season really gets started. I am absolutely floored at what the WNBA is coming to. 

Disgruntled isn’t even the word to describe how I feel about the upcoming season. Shook, maybe. Angry and astonished, absolutely. 

There are still signs of hope for this season. I would be remiss not to mention the improvements that have been made to increase players’ salary which ultimately increases the salary cap for the WNBA as a whole. This improvement alone is a huge stride for the WNBA as a league. Even so, I can’t help feeling that the salary cap is just five steps forward for the league taking ten steps back with waiving so many talented players. 

With the current state of the league, I think now it’s time to start asking: What is the purpose of the league being founded in the first place? Is it truly to foster the love of and talent for the game of basketball? If so, should every decision be fueled by budgets and dollar signs? And if so, how is this league going to stay within the confines of their budgets while not sacrificing the integrity and spirit of the league by making a commitment to bring in new talent? 

Maybe once those questions are answered, logical and reasonable solutions will soon follow. Until then, I will still be tuning into the summer WNBA games, excited for the season and wishing to see some new players.

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