WNBA Commissioner confident season will be successful


NEW YORK (AP) – WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert believes the measures that the league has taken to ensure the players are safe as they work toward their season have been effective.

Engelbert said on a conference call Wednesday that there were two positive tests for the coronavirus when the players and staff first arrived on July 6 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. There have been none since.

“Knock on wood every day, but things are stable here,” Engelbert said. “So far, the plan and the protocols are working. Wearing masks, washing hands, daily temperature checks.”

Engelbert, who just finished her first year as the league’s commissioner, said that she is confident the WNBA will have a successful season and make it through the playoffs in October.

“Again, I’m not superstitious, but the more I talk about how well things are going, I do get a little nervous. But I’m very confident right now.” she said.

Engelbert also discussed some of the logistics of game day operations, saying that like the teams, the league’s referees will be staying at IMG Academy, too. The game day staff though won’t be inside the bubble and will be behind a Plexiglass barrier on the opposite side of the court from the benches at the Feld Entertainment Center ,where the games will be played.

The season will tip off on Saturday and teams will play 22 games, with the regular season ending Sept. 12.

Engelbert once again stated on the call how the WNBA is dedicating its season to social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter. Players will wear special uniforms during the opening weekend that have Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of them. Some players, including Breanna Stewart, have told The Associated Press that they will wear Taylor’s name on their jersey all season.

“I think to me it’s a no-brainer,” Stewart said. “We want to continue to use our platform to amplify things we’re fighting for and continue to put an emphasis on Breonna Taylor. Focus on the fact that her killers haven’t been arrested.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, was shot eight times by plainclothes Louisville police officers serving a narcotics search warrant at her apartment on March 13. No drugs were found. Her family and protesters around the country have called for swift action against the officers who shot Taylor.

“We’re so proud of our players speaking out on these issues,” Engelbert said. “There’s nothing political about that. It’s a statement of their values. They’re bringing awareness to issues that have long been ignored, particularly as they advocate for female victims of racial injustice and police brutality. That’s an important voice to be heard.”


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FILE – WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of basketball’s WNBA Finals, in a Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 file photo, in Washington. Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler is not in favor of the WNBA’s social justice plans and has sent a letter to Commissioner Cathy Engelbert objecting to the league’s initiatives to honor the Black Lives Matter movement when the season begins in Florida. Loeffler is a U.S. Republican senator running for re-election in Georgia.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)