Sports have been dominating our social media feeds lately, especially since Serena “The G.O.A.T” Williams decided to leave tennis to focus on expanding her family and her venture capital firm. And we watched Brittney Griner’s devastating indictment in Russia and the efforts from her wife Cherelle, teammates, and fans to bring her home.
Co-host and VP of Unbothered Chelsea Sanders can speak on the topic both as a player and spectator. “I played volleyball for over a decade. I went to Yale, and I walked onto the volleyball team, and I hated it. I quit after five or six weeks,” Sanders admits, noting the two-a-day practices were not her vibe.
On the other hand, WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike went hard in the paint for Stanford University and became the league’s No. 1 draft pick in 2012. So, it’s fitting that the LA Sparks power forward joined the roundtable for this discussion.
“Ten years ago, I didn’t think it was a reality for me to make sports my career. I didn’t have the access to it, like athletes who seek the NBA, NFL, or NHL,” says the baller who’s also president of the WNBPA, the WNBA’s players union.
The Houston-raised athlete took the GMAT and the GRE and enrolled in business school overseas — just in case her dream of playing professional ball didn’t happen. Nneka is quick to give credit to the OGs who “raised” her like Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson, and Cynthia Cooper. Those legends made it possible for WNBA’s current players to break hella barriers.
“We can’t think that we started it… We know who opened the door for us. And we don’t close doors. We leave them open,” says the 2016 MVP. “We build a path moving forward. We lift everyone up.”
And speaking of lifting as we climb, Nneka led the renegotiation of the WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. This ground-breaking deal resulted in a 53 percent salary and bonus increase; and better travel and childcare experiences and off-season career opportunities, according to WNBA.com.
For Nneka, one important way to destroy the inequity between the women's and men’s leagues is for everyone to invest in women’s sports. And it’s okay to start small and then work your way up. The Nigerian-American advocate says the first move can be watching a game, which more people are doing. This past season, the WNBA enjoyed their most-watched season since 2008. And the league set high numbers for social media and digital engagement and merchandise sold.
To hear more about Title IX and how Black women athletes are paid three to ten times more overseas than on their home court, listen to the full episode below.