In 2020, Atlanta Dream players Rally in support From Raphael Warnock, the Georgia Democrat who eventually defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler, then-Dream co-owner, in a runoff election to the United States Senate.
And in 2021, Nika Ogomec of the Los Angeles Sparks and Aja Wilson of the Las Vegas Ace were among the WNBA stars to appear in “Our health is worth itPSA to boost coronavirus vaccines.
For Dr. Angie DelevoyD., a data scientist at Stanford University, these were three of the many cases that confirmed the WNBA’s status as the poster child for a “new paradigm of sports activity”: one, she wrote, could put leagues in a “unique and unprecedented position” in fact. benefit From not sticking to sports.
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Unlike, for example, the ostracism that American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos faced afterwards I raise my black glove fist During the National Anthem at the 1968 Summer Olympics or the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick next faced Kneeling during the national anthem “Activity does not come at the expense of the WNBA,” Delevoye wrote in a recently approved thesis, prior to the 2016 NFL games.
Delevoy’s May thesis, “Leadership from the Margins: The WNBA and the Emergence of a New Paradigm of Sports Activism in the United States,” helped her earn a Ph. in Political Science from Yale University.
He also provided some research and takeaway in time with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that outlaws sex discrimination in federally funded “educational programs and activities,” and essentially legalizes women’s college athletics as we know it, on June 23.
Specifically: WNBA athletes have charted and continued to chart a new path when it comes to the intersection between sports and politics: one that is inevitable for their remarkably diverse league.
The WNBA “has taken it as far as we’ve seen,” Delevoy said in a presentation to the Atlantic members of the Associated Press’s sports editors last month.
The roles of the players are political in nature
Across 168 pages of context, numbers, and research, Delevoye has honed three key characteristics to defending the WNBA’s standing as a premier sports league and a potential model to follow nationally.
#1: WNBA players “never had the privilege of not being political,” she wrote. According to statistics compiled by Delevoye, about 67% of WNBA players are black, and although there are no complete statistics, a “significant percentage” of WNBA players identify as LGBTQ+. All five participants in the 2019 All-WNBA Team have been identified as LGBTQ+, while At least 25% of athletes in last year’s qualifiers They were openly LGBTQ+.
“The mere fact that they exist as athletes has to be political,” Delevoy said. (WNBA star) Sue Bird has a great quote along the lines of: “We’d like to play ball and shut up, but they wouldn’t let us.”
#2: The activity has been a key part of the NBA’s long-term success (its 26th season began in May), but this synergy “came only after the league began to fully acknowledge the identities of its players.” Gone are the days of the WNBA brand itself as an exclusive league for traditional gender roles And the womanhood.
Conversely, the WNBA’s recent embrace of athlete diversity and activism (with great help from WNBA Players Association) have significant commercial benefits. The 2021 season was the most watched in the WNBA since 2008; Merchandise sales and impressions on social media also experienced record growth.
“Only when periodicals fully embrace that political nature can they begin to see those commercial gains and political successes feeding into each other,” Delevoy said.
No. 3: WNBA’s success “depends on and generates” an alignment between the values of athletes and those of the fans. Delevoye found that the WNBA’s fan bases are, on average, more diverse than the NFL’s, NBA’s, and MLB’s when it comes to sexual orientation, race, party selection, and other demographics.
Based on surveys of 6,278 fans, it found, for example, that 84% of WNBA fans know they are straight while more than 90% of NFL, NBA, and MLB fans do. The WNBA also has the smallest percentage of Republican fans (17%), the smallest percentage of male fans (55%) and the second smallest percentage of white fans (59% for the NBA 50%).
What is the impact of this new model of sports activity? Delevoye’s research reveals that WNBA athletes speak out Can She actively influences opinions on policies such as equal pay, voting rights and the inclusion of transgender athletes in sport, three topics she specifically chose for her studies.
But she said the survey responses were “polarised”. Whereas liberal sports fans (whose views were more aligned with WNBA players) were more persuasive with WNBA-supported messages on political topics, conservative sports fans (whose views were less aligned) were less persuasive. It’s called the group sign: the response to the messenger is more than the subject.
“There was an idea that when Republicans and Democrats talk about issues, of course you will see polarization,” Delevoy said. “But I show here that it also works with non-political messengers.”
History of activity in the WNBA
The establishment of the WNBA as a “credible and relevant non-political messenger”, or an organization not explicitly affiliated with politics but still making political arguments, was a major part of Delevoye’s social science research and dissertation as a whole. Based on the last decade of the WNBA’s activity, she had a lot to cover.
Far from their aforementioned activism surrounding anti-gay marriage laws and coronavirus vaccines, WNBA athletes have been at the “vanguard” of activism, Delevoy wrote, on police brutality, social injustice, and system racism, specifically in the context of police killings of black men and women.
In 2016, Lynx was the first professional sports franchise for Protest Police murders of Alton Stirling and Villado of Castile. In 2019, former MVP Maya Moore left basketball to Pursuing criminal justice reform. In 2020, WNBAers Natasha CloudAnd the Renee Montgomery And the Tiffany Hayes The season’s exit was chosen to focus on advocacy and organizing efforts amid a national account about race, privilege, and police violence.
The list goes on, and includes the hand of Dream players in Warnock’s successful campaign in the US Senate against Loeffler, the former Republican senator from Georgia and co-owner of Dream who He criticized the “Black Lives Matter” movement. In July 2020. Delevoy said the Warnock campaign “kicked off” later that summer.
It can’t be fully attributed to the WNBA,” Delevoy said. “He had a strong health-based and social justice-based campaign that resonated clearly…but there is only so much the press can talk about, and the WNBA provided an additional key angle to talk about race in ways that were favorable to him.”
She said Delevoy’s research has revealed unresolved questions. In particular, how can the WNBA sustain this increased level of interest and translate it into “concrete actions,” such as ticket and merchandise sales? And how does this WNBA model apply to other sports and other countries?
Delevoy said, “The main idea is that for the WNBA, at least, it’s true that business success and political success do not come at the expense of each other. Both can happen at the same time.”