Women’s National Basketball Association Debuts on NBC Days Before Title IX Anniversary
On June 21, Saturday afternoon, when viewers tune in to NBC, they will witness the Women’s National Basketball Association’s first game. The WNBA begins its first 28-game season which will culminate in four teams advancing to single-elimination playoff games in August. With three nationally-televised games a week on ESPN, NBC, or Lifetime, the league projects an average attendance of 4,000 a game and a larger TV audience. The WNBA includes former Olympians, 12 of whom have won gold medals. Fifteen of the 80 WNBA players are from outside the United States. According to Val Ackerman, the league’s president, "The WNBA has the best players from around the world…These women have been playing in obscurity overseas. People’s heads will turn when they see the skill of these women."
The NBA owns the eight-member league and has assisted it in achieving sponsors such as Nike, GM and Sears. The American Basketball League, a year-old women’s athletic group, also supports the WNBA despite the competition the new league brings. "[U]ltimately, this is great for women’s basketball," ABL’s co-founder Gary Cavelli said. "Two years ago, great college players had two choices: drop their sport or play overseas. Now, exposure to women’s basketball is at an all-time high in this country."
Media Resources: USA Today - June 17, 1997; USA Today - June 20, 1997