Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bill Simmons likes to make fun of the WNBA.

Here's what it is: I like Bill Simmons. I read the Book of Basketball. The man knows a heck of a lot about the game and it's history, so I would never, ever take shots at him in that regard. I generally enjoy reading his columns, because along with being knowledgeable, he's a good writer and he's pretty funny. But here's a quick example of what I don't like, and what I can't get down with:

For those of you who don't know, Bruce Pearl is the now former head coach of the mens basketball team at the University of Tennessee. He got the axe today. Me being the nosy person that I am, and knowing that Bill Simmons has a nice, dry sense of humor that I can appreciate, I click on the link... And it brought me to the homepage for the WNBA. It made me realize that this was not the first time that Mr. Simmons has taken shots at womens' basketball, so I took the liberty of finding other examples from his twitter page: 

Love that we're trying to pique England's interest in NBA basketball with 2 Nets-Raptors games. Plan B: WNBApalooza.

Come on, UConn women! One half to go!

I fail to understand why behavior like this is still acceptable. First of all- that winning streak that he so sarcastically pretended to care about? That was 90 games. That is incredible. And now, about the jabs to the WNBA. The WNBA is only thirteen years old. It is not the established league that the NBA is, but in its young life, it has already had its fair share of stars. The women who play in the WNBA do so because they love the game. They are not the fame chasing, money hungry egomaniacs that some of their counterparts in the NBA so sadly are. You have to play for the love of the game, because the money simply isn't there for female ballers in America. Rookies get paid a minimum of $35,190... which is enough to support yourself, but not a family. On the other end of the spectrum, the maximum salary for veterans in the WNBA is $101,000. It's not chump change, but let's think of what a vet in the NBA makes. Let's take Erick Dampier for example, because I just happened to randomly think of him: $713,666. So Erick Dampier is sitting pretty, while female ballers play the WNBA season in America and then the majority of them play abroad in the off season, so that they can make enough money to support themselves. 

When I clicked on the link from the tweet that lead me to the WNBA homepage, a large picture of Diana Taurasi greeted me. If she does not qualify as a bonafide basketball powerhouse, than I don't know who does. She lead the University of Connecticut to three consecutive national titles, and over the course of her years at UConn, averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. After leaving UConn, she was the number one pick in the 2004 WNBA draft and was eventually named the Rookie of the Year. She has won two WNBA titles over the course of her career. She has also won 4 gold medals with the US National Basketball Team, along with 2 bronze. 

Diana Taurasi is not just a good female basketball player. She is a phenomenal basketball player, period, gender aside. Bill Simmons does not belittle male basketball players with similar credentials. You know why? Because they're hailed as superstars. They're Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Mr. Simmons might slip them the occasional snide remark, but he does not take shots at their manhood, or question the authenticity or validity of their careers. Can you imagine the outrage if he made fun of an NBA player for being black? The outrage would be deserved, and he would also justly lose his job... But he doesn't do it, because it's wrong and it's racist and he's not a fascist. Yet it's okay to make fun of a whole gender of people. Sadly, Bill Simmons is not alone in this ignorant, misogynistic way of thinking. It is the general attitude and mindset adopted by the majority of people in American mainstream culture today. 

Bill Russell became the first African American basketball player to achieve superstar status. Over the course of his 13 year career, he endured brutal racism. He played in the pinnacle of the American civil rights movement. The resistance to change and attitudes of hate held by white Americans all around the country manifested itself in NBA fans: there were fans that didn't want black people to be in the NBA, proprietors who didn't want him to eat in their restaurant, or sleep in their hotels. Bill Russell so heroically persevered through all of that, and blazed the trail for generations of Black basketball stars to follow in his path. Women have fought a similar fight, and have luckily progressed a long way from being second class citizens. But sexism is still alive (just like racism). It may be more disguised, but it's alive and kicking. Female basketball has a history of crusaders as well. The female game is not like the male game. It has it's own grace, it's own beauty and charisma. Nancy Lieberman and Pat Summitt have been champions of womens basketball for years. Cheryl Miller, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Lesley gracefully followed in their footsteps. Candace Parker is a superstar now... And she dunks! Do you dunk, Bill Simmons? 
Maya Moore is a rising superstar. My point is that we're not going away! 

At the end of the day, I know Bill Simmons was joking. I do not personally know him, but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't walk around actively thinking misogynistic thoughts, and that is is not his intention to insult women... But there is an abundance of female basketball talent, and it deserves to be recognized and taken seriously, in a way that it currently is not.   

1 comment:

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