Sarah Valenzuela New York Daily News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Sarah Valenzuela reports, "Last season, the league saw highs in terms of its television and digital audiences, from the draft to the WNBA Finals. And just this month, the WNBA released its Nike rebel edition jerseys."
The WNBA has an official start date for its 25th season.
The league will tip off its silver anniversary season on May 14, just one month after holding its second virtual draft. The Liberty, who will finally be able to make its Brooklyn debut at Barclays Center, get underway that night against the Indiana Fever.
“This milestone couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment . . .The momentum for women’s sports has only continued to grow,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, “and now coming off a tremendous season last year in our so-called ‘wubble,’ (the WNBA’s bubble) we’re poised for success and growth and I couldn’t be more pleased with how things are going.”
Last season, the league saw highs in terms of its television and digital audiences, from the draft to the WNBA Finals. And just this month, the WNBA released its Nike rebel edition jerseys — the Liberty’s says
“EQUALITY” across the front chest with Lady Liberty’s torch as the “i”.
“Absent the pandemic. where we were trying to get from survive to thrive, we’ve really made a ton of progress,” Engelbert said of the W’s growth over 25 years. “We’re in thrive mode now.”
This season, the second to take place during the coronavirus pandemic, will still look different because of ongoing health and safety protocols, but fans will be allowed inside arenas for at least nine of the 12 teams, depending on local ordinances.
Engelbert said she attended a number of NBA games this season to experience what having crowds at games would look like. Barclays Center has been open to a limited number of fans for Nets games, seemingly without becoming super-spreader events. So it’s likely Libs fans will be able to catch one of the W’s original teams in person starting next month.
The regular season usually includes 34 games, a number reduced last season to 22 while teams played in a bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. This season won’t get back to normal — pandemic aside, it’s an Olympic year and the chosen few WNBA elite will travel to Tokyo to compete for their ninth-consecutive gold medal from July 23 to Aug. 8 — but will include 32 games. For the Liberty, that will be 16 home and 16 away games.
After they host the Fever, they’ll travel to Indianapolis for a game there on May 16, then head back to Brooklyn to host the Minnesota Lynx on May 18.
Their longest homestand won’t come until Aug. 18-27 and they’ll get the Seattle Storm (from whom they acquired top veterans Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb in the offseason) and Phoenix Mercury (who they traded Kia Nurse to) for two games apiece, as well as the Los Angeles Sparks (who Amanda Zahui B signed with in free agency).
The WNBA, like every other major sports league in the country, plans to provide players with education on COVID-19 vaccines, but will not force its athletes to get vaccinated. Even though the COVID health and safety protocols this season will be different from last year’s because they aren’t playing in isolation, vaccinated players may not have to be removed from games if they previously came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. But Engelbert reiterated, it’s a fluid situation and the league will continue to be guided by experts and science. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.