“The WNBA is a joke.” Ask any bigot you meet on the street what their opinion on women’s basketball is, and they’ll likely tell you this. They will explain that women don’t dunk nearly as much as men, they score lower in general, and as a result, their games are much less entertaining to watch. But dunking is not the only thing that makes the game interesting. Breaking through the other team’s defense to score for your team is only half of the strategy. Defense is equally important, and tends to be more of a focus in the WNBA than the NBA.

The Seattle Reign FC, founded in 2013, set a record of 16 games undefeated in 2014 and was named the NWSL Best XI Team of 2014 and 2015

Women’s sports can focus more on teamwork, and less about the star wings who score big for themselves. And seeing as basketball is a team sport, shouldn’t the focus really be on running plays that involve everyone working together and passing the ball? When the WNBA is put down as a “joke” or an “un-engaging spectator sport”, it undermines all the hard work players have been putting in for years, all the time spent playing basketball in high school and college.
Criticizing female athletes is detrimental to young girls just beginning to compete athletically. Women’s sports need to be taken seriously in order to encourage young female athletes to keep playing and to be competitive. Younger girls competing in sports look up to professional female athletes, and oftentimes, they can’t see their role models represented because their events aren’t covered by the mainstream media nearly as extensively as men’s events. Just flipping through the November 2015 issue of basketball magazine Slam, you can only find two page-long articles on female players out of the 83 total pages (and none of the ads feature women either). Even if a young girl can find a female athlete to look up to, she may not find any value in their job because women are so under-paid in comparison to their male athlete counterparts.

The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000, in comparison to a $4.9 million salary for an average NBA athlete. The USA women’s soccer team received a $15 million dollar prize for winning the World Cup, whereas the USA men’s soccer team earned $576 million for losing. Additionally, salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League range between $6,000 and $30,000. The 2015 Poverty Level threshold for a household of four is an income of $24,250. Seeing as male athletes are some of the highest-paid people in the country, it makes no sense that some female athletes could be living under the poverty line in the cities they play for. All professional athletes have equally strenuous jobs and play at equally high stakes, but women’s efforts are not as readily recognized because their competitive spectacle is deemed lesser than the men’s.

The Seattle Storms qualified for WNBA playoffs 11 out of 16 years in Seattle, they were WNBA finalists in 2004, and in the 2010 WNBA finals, they won all three of their games, sweeping the competition

Animosity towards women and the belief that women are inherently weaker than men is a larger societal problem that prevents women from even trying to compete on the same scale as men. Inequality in sports begins far before athletes reach a professional level. Boys are encouraged to be aggressive, while girls are told they need to play a good, clean game. Discouraging women from competing in sports by not paying athletes enough, giving young women less opportunities, or insulting women’s teams not only holds girls back from pursuing sports in college and at a professional level, it prevents them from reaching the same levels of confidence that men do in their overall lives. People have to compete for jobs, for promotions, for any variety of opportunities in life. When girls are taught at a young age to play nice, to not foul out, they learn to not compete at anything at all. It’s high time we respect the competition that sports teach women, to step up and defend the value of professional women’s sports.

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