July 14, 2016
Seattle Storm’s rookie sensation Breanna Stewart took home two awards last night at ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards show held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. She won both Best Female College Athlete and Best Female Athlete, beating out WNBA’s own MVP Elena Delle Donne, swimmer Katie Ledecky, and gymnast Simone Biles. After completing an amazing college career at the University of Connecticut, where Stewart won four National Championships, she now plays in the WNBA for the Seattle Storm after being drafted as the number one pick in the 2016 WNBA draft. No stranger to the lights and cameras, once Stewart stepped on stage to accept her award, she opened with “This is a lot of people.” With all those people in attendance, an audience filled with some of the best athletes in the world, many celebrities and a ton of sports fans, Stewart used this moment to share a message about supporting women and girls in sport.
At Connecticut, the Husky women averaged almost 9,000 fans per game. So far this season, which is the league’s 20th, the WNBA’s Attendance Average is a little over 7,000. Although an increase from the 2015 season, the WNBA has struggled to bring the fans and sponsorships many on the inside believe it deserves. Stewart took this opportunity to express her concern for the lack of support women on the professional level have received.
“I’d like to thank my fans, my family, UConn, my coaches and all my teammates,” Stewart said upon receiving the award. “I’d also like to thank ESPN and the media. During my time in college, I received much media attention. I am grateful for that.
“But now that I am in the WNBA, playing with other amazing female athletes, I’m trying to understand why we, as professional female athletes, don’t receive anywhere near the fame. This has to change.”
As many athletes use their influence and platforms to speak out about issues and causes that concern them, Stewart quickly spoke about the lack of media coverage that the WNBA receives. The WNBA is the best women’s basketball league in the world with some amazing talent. Their games are affordable, family friendly and filled with exceptionally good basketball! Many people who actually take the time to attend a WNBA game almost always enjoys their experience. It’s time for the media to stop ignoring not only the WNBA but women’s sports in general and give them the platform they deserve.
Last year the NBA and WNBA partnered with LeanIn.Org to create the #LeanInTogether campaign which is a public service campaign that emphasizes how men benefit from equality and providing practical tips for men to do their part at home and at work. The campaign encourages men to “show the world they’re for equality” and women to “celebrate men leaning in for equality” by posting with the hashtag #LeanInTogether. But ‘Leaning In Together’ has to go further than posting a hashtag or filming a commercial.
If professional athletes and the like really want to ‘Lean In’ then they must use their voice and resources to support women and girls in sports. The WNBA’s season is during the NBA’s and the NFL’s off-season, players could use this time to attend a game or maybe even purchase season tickets. Male professional athletes have such a presence and great influence in our society that they alone could create the change needed to garner more support for women’s sports. Most men have young women in their lives that may one day aspire to be a professional athlete, they should want to be able to tell these young girls and women in their lives that they did all they could to support their hopes and dreams. Stewart summed this all up with her closing statement in which she said, “equality for all takes each of us.”