Can Unrivaled prevent WNBA players from being forced to make their money overseas? | WNBA

VSAndace Parker has spent the best of his career as most WNBA players do, rushing back and forth across the United States during the league season while representing his country in international competition and playing in club basketball overseas during the offseason, supplementing his domestic income with significantly higher paydays. in Russia, China and Turkey.

Until she doesn’t. Parker signed a lucrative TV broadcasting deal with Turner Sports in 2018 as an analyst and commentator for NBA games, allowing her to quit playing overseas and even take a pay cut for join defending champion Las Vegas Aces last offseason. Parker brought in $7 million in off-the-court earnings in 2022 leveraging his charismatic personality and platform as one of the greatest hoopers of all time.

The question is: how can other WNBA players do the same? Rather than following the prescribed path laid out for them from the WNBA to national team responsibilities to playing overseas — all at the expense of a family life or a sense of security — how can they choose their own destiny?

The WNBA has more sponsors, primetime TV deals, higher salaries and better benefits than ever before. But 67 of the league’s 144 players still took the risk of playing overseas in the offseason despite Brittney Griner being held in a Russian prison. Alternatively, some join the WNBA Player Marketing Agreement, forgoing the game to help promote the league through public appearances.

A new professional women’s basketball league hopes to provide another option by giving the WNBA’s top players the chance to play in the United States during the offseason. Unrivaled, the brainchild of WNBA All-Stars Napheesa Collier and Breanna Stewart, will pit 30 of the world’s top players in three-on-three and one-on-one action starting in January in Miami.

“I think [Unrivaled] just keep making sure people have opportunities and options to stay home,” Stewart told The Guardian during the WNBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. “So it’s just the ability to give players more options and more choices because I think the prioritization really didn’t give us a choice. Now we’re getting them back and it’s just coming from a source different.

But Unrivaled is also part of a much larger movement to develop women’s sport by showcasing the talent and personality of individual players. The goal is to provide the best players in the WNBA with more exposure and better branding and partnership opportunities.

After all, no matter how popular a player is for six months of the year during the WNBA season, the current state of women’s basketball results in extended periods of “breakdown” when players go overseas and miss their chance to market themselves. an American audience.

This landscape leads to WNBA players becoming “out of sight, out of mind” during the offseason, as nine-year veteran and Las Vegas Aces All-Star Chelsea Gray put it. “So being able to be at home and our faces and our images and our appearance, we’re able to go there. But it’s abroad that we make our bread. That’s where it’s always been at least since I’ve been in the league. My rookie year, they were just like, ‘You gotta go overseas.’ … But it didn’t allow for growth off the pitch as much as branding and seeing our face.

Atlanta Dream All-Star forward Cheyenne Parker agrees. “[Playing overseas] is not easy,” she said. “I’ve been there every season between WNBA seasons and I don’t have any mention at the moment. While that kind of shows the disconnect there. It’s hard. It’s hard because you’re in another country. So you’re kind of – you become irrelevant.

Unrivaled hopes to change that by giving athletes a platform to perform year-round in the United States. By leveraging social media and documentary-style storytelling, the league will showcase players’ unique personalities and bring their names and faces to the world and hopefully engage with them.

“Content is a priority,” Collier explained. “So we’re going to have a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff, we’re going to have podcasts, we’re going to have cameras everywhere all the time. So it’s going to be like a lot of cool access to players that you won’t necessarily see very often.

The flashy style of 3×3 basketball will also hopefully help the league.

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