An Alicia Berber update — Sue Bird on WNBA expansion — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, May 11, 2022
Before we get into the week that was in the WNBA, an update to last week’s story on Alicia Berber and Riverside City College.
Late Tuesday, a full week after requesting comment, I heard from Renee Vigil, an employee with the school district, who answered my first question about Barry Meier’s invitation to an athletics event this way:
“Response: Barry Meier is no longer employed by the Riverside Community College District. As a private citizen, he is within his rights to participate in the Tiger Backer tournament, an event that is advertised to the general public.”
Notice what is NOT in this answer: why he was specifically invited, why he was not discouraged from attending, why he feels so welcome by the department that no longer employs him, but continues to provide him with things like a parking space for life, that he chooses to attend these events, nor any denunciation or even mild attempts to separate from him by the powers atop the college: Riverside City College Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac, RCC president Gregory Anderson and RCC Athletic Director Peyton Williams.
Moreover, I asked the three men about the treatment of Berber, and this was their PR person’s response: “Response: Ms. Berber is currently in litigation with Riverside Community College District and counsel has advised us not to comment on this matter.”
Got that? Because the treatment is so poor that Berber has been forced to sue a second time in a decade, after the first suit produced a $250,000 payment in settlement, they cannot comment.
Again: please understand the context here. This is the price Berber, and countless others, pay simply for fighting to enforce Title IX equity. We are 50 years in. And there is so much more to do.
Now to Sue Bird, who had some interesting things to say about expansion when I spoke to her yesterday. First: in light of Cathy Engelbert saying she hopes to have news on expansion this summer, I asked Sue which markets she’d want to join the league first.
I appreciated, immediately, her stipulation: talking in terms of “in it to win it”, reflecting the way anyone should evaluate a potential WNBA expansion bid: are the owners well-capitalized? And do they have a place to play?
“I think the Bay Area is a great place to have a team,” Bird said. “This next one I always get confused — sometimes I want to say Portland. I think Portland would be. I think the Bay Area and Portland are probably my top two and I think Toronto is, third could climb into the top two.”
This is where I point out the difference between Oakland, which has a dedicated ownership group and a place to play, and Toronto, which at this point has some intriguing comments from Masai Ujiri and Drake.
My second question to Sue: would she prefer two new teams, or two new roster spots per team?
“Both,” she said with a chuckle… it’s probably more realistic to just add to roster spots to start, but that actually brings up a whole other elements of, you know, the hard cap and how does that even fit? Are they just practice players like Stewie tweeted out, you know, like, how does that work? Or is it easier just to bring two teams? Probably bring two teams.”
Two things from something beyond simply what I believe: the WNBA is not turning away countless billionaires who wish to spend at the Joe Tsai level. And there is more than sufficient interest from multiple, well-capitalized owners with a plan for where to play that we’ll have movement on the expansion front as soon as this summer.
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This week in women’s basketball
My FiveThirtyEight WNBA preview, with one stat for each team.
Important read from Dana O’Neil and Chantel Jennings.
Really good from Ben Pickman on AD.
Predictions from The Athletic crew.
How Lauren Fields ended up at Arizona.
Jenna O’Hea details what happened last summer with Liz Cambage and Basketball Australia.
A Tannenwald trio:
Kahleah Copper: https://www.inquirer.com/sports/kahleah-copper-chicago-sky-wnba-20220506.html
Elena Delle Donne: https://www.inquirer.com/sports/elena-delle-donne-wnba-washington-mystics-20220507.html
Vivian Stringer, Yolanda Laney and Betnijah Laney: https://www.inquirer.com/sports/vivian-stringer-retires-rutgers-betnijah-laney-20220507.html
And support Debbie Antonelli’s great cause.
Five at The IX: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
I am on record as believing the Lynx are truly in trouble when we have seen them formally eliminated from playoff contention, and not a moment before. My source for this belief is: everything in the Cheryl Reeve Lynx era.
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