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Topic: Advocacy - May 15 2024
Bringing VISibility to the 2024 WNBA Season

Women’s basketball has become an example of how women’s sports are advancing in 2024. From Caitlin Clark’s historic collegiate career to record-breaking viewership on everything women’s basketball, from the WNBA draft to the NCAA Tournament Championship. As the WNBA season begins, VIS Mentors show us how we can use our sport to advocate for a better future.

By: Abby Waddington

VIS Creator

Topic: Advocacy

May 15 2024

Image source: photo Alan Strack _ VOICEINSPORT

The 2024 WNBA is off to a great start: The stars are out in every way, from three-pointers to serving their community in true WNBA style. This season, the WNBA has partnered with VOICEINSPORT to keep girls in sport, launching 16 Mentors at VIS - including four in yesterday’s opening game between the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun! 

Game Recap 

The Sun beat the Fever decisively, going on a 27-14 run in the 4th quarter to win 92-71. In Caitlin Clark’s highly anticipated WNBA debut, the Sun forced the rookie into 10 offensive turnovers. Clark eventually got her footing, scoring 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to overpower the Sun, led by forward Alyssa Thomas with 13 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. Thomas, an 11-year starter for the Connecticut Sun, was unphased by the record-breaking crowds at Tuesday’s game, putting up her 12th triple-double of her career.

“Whether no one’s watching or everyone in the gym’s watching, I want to set the standard for my game that it doesn’t matter,” Thomas said in a post-game press conference. “This is who I am.”

Stars On the Court, VIS Mentors Off the Court 

The WNBA has long been leading the sports world in advocacy, from anti-racist education to combatting homophobia to their latest partnership with VOICEINSPORT, which aims to elevate women’s voices and guide young women athletes to keep them in the game. Four of these VIS Mentors, the Indiana Fever’s Katie Lou Samuelson, Lexie Hull, and Aliyah Boston, and the Sun’s Brionna Jones, opened up the WNBA season with a bang: Samuelson scored 5 points with 2 rebounds and 3 assists, Boston scored 4 points with 6 rebounds and 2 assists, and Jones scored 8 points with 3 rebounds and 1 assist. 

But before the season even started, these women had been hard at work connecting with young women athletes on the VOICEINSPORT platform to share their advice from a professional athlete perspective. Both Jones and Hull have held VIS Sessions on important topics like building confidence and balancing athletics and academics during college. 

Attendance Records and WNBA Momentum 

Last night’s game, like much of this year’s NCAA women’s tournament, had record-breaking attendance numbers. The Connecticut Sun sold out their home stadium, the Mohegan Sun, for the first time in their 21-year franchise history, selling 8,910 tickets. This comes on the heels of the Fever’s new attendance record during a preseason game, nearly doubling their highest attendance last year with ​​13,028 fans.  A new attendance record on the opening night of the season bodes well for the growth of women’s basketball viewership and speaks to the momentum the sport is gaining on the tail of Caitlin Clark and other NCAA stars’ historic season. 

“I'm excited for the league just to have eyes on it just so people can see and support. I hope it continues. I hope it doesn't just stop at the collegiate level,” said A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, in an interview with People. “I think that's going to be the eye-opener that I hope could continue to expand for us."

The monumental increase in attendance, attention, media coverage, and viewership at the collegiate level this year provides a positive outlook for the future of women’s basketball and WNBA expansion. And based on the first game of the season, things are trending in the right direction. 

Caitlin Clark’s First WNBA In-Season Game 

Caitlin Clark, whose record-breaking senior year at the University of Iowa brought a new level of VISibility to the sport, played her first in-season game as a guard for the Fever last night. Clark played 32 minutes, scoring 20 points with 3 assists. More importantly, Clark joins an elite league of women dedicated to advocacy and progress. Her popularity will hopefully shed light on issues of inequality in WNBA coverage and funding, while also bringing with her a new audience to appreciate both her athletic talent and the sport as a whole. 

Clark recently signed a historic $28 million contract with Nike. The eight-year contract is reported to include a signature shoe, something achieved by only three other current WNBA players. According to ESPN, this deal would be the “richest sponsorship contract for a women's basketball player.”

Introduction of Charter Flights 

One of this WNBA season’s most exciting developments is the introduction of chartered flights throughout the regular season. The WNBA announced last Thursday that they would begin the rollout of private charter planes beginning with the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever for last night’s games. The details of the program are still being worked out, leaving many players anticipating when the change will take place. As the league begins to develop further and gain a larger fanbase and the world tunes in, the WNBA teams and front offices are making the moves to continue to raise the bar for women’s professional basketball.

As the 2024 women’s basketball season picks up speed and records begin to fall, the WNBA’s partnership with VIS continues to mentor girls through the ups and downs of being a woman athlete. These women are showing us what it means to be an athlete and an advocate for the next generation of players: mentoring young athletes off the court and showing them what’s possible on it. With more fans tuning in to WNBA games, our VIS Mentors have the power to continue to elevate the experiences and amplify the VOICEs of women players – new to the game and icons alike. 

VOICEINSPORT

Take Action

Keep an eye out for more WNBA Sessions or send a request to the VIS team on the Sessions page! And check out the VIS Mentor bio pages for Katie Lou Samuelson, Lexie Hull, Aliyah Boston, and Brionna Jones.