The WNBA and women's sports in general have been experiencing an uptick in viewership. Sabrina Ionescu, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark, and other new stars have been one of the main reasons why this is the case. Unfortunately, this means that the discourse also increases, and along with it comes undue vitriol. Chiney Ogwumike had a big reminder to both the avid fans of the Cathy Engelbert-led league and players who are getting the limelight because of this surge in popularity.

There has been a long push from the WNBA to get on the same level as other leagues. Cathy Engelbert and the association are finally experiencing a steady rise in their league. But, a lot of it came with negative statements and it mostly involved Caitlin Clark. While there were no names dropped by Chiney Ogwumike, she urged fans of the sport to be more critical in evaluating whether or not they should be saying some words.

This is the moment that we’ve been waiting for in women’s basketball. And honestly, it’s bigger than that. This is the moment that we’ve been waiting for in women’s sports. But, we cannot fumble it. This moment that we’re in was never guaranteed but it’s here. We are all witnessing this unprecedented moment of change and not just like regular shmegular change. That transformational change of equity, of opportunity, of how we see one another through the lens of sports.

A big problem in the WNBA

May 16, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) rushes up the court past New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) on Thursday, May 16, 2024, during the Indiana Fever home opener game against the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports
© IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Chiney Ogwumike was a former player in the WNBA. She never got the opportunity to play with Caitlin Clark but she did see how the league steadily grew when Sabrina Ionescu. While her playing career ended after her stint with the Los Angeles Sparks, the sport never left her heart. She became the first black woman to host a radio show for ESPN. So, her observations about the WNBA's problems come with a lot of analytical rigor.

Here’s the problem: women’s sports are right now being subjected to some of the most polarizing aspects of society. The discourse is operating at the intersection of race, of gender. It’s even being weaponized by politics. The endless debates are overshadowing the beauty of the game. Yes, people are captivated. And don’t get me wrong, we want conversation. But we want it to be constructive. Which is why I hope that everyone sees that the dialogue surrounding women’s sports has to change.

Since this rookie class with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese entered the Cathy Engelbert-led league, there were a lot of negative statements hurled towards other players. Some of it was just flat-out bashing and unproductive despite a minority of fair criticism. It got significantly worse after a lot of clips involving hard fouls on the Indiana Fever circulated online. The unfortunate and large nail in this discourse was when she was left out of the Team USA Paris Olympics.

Sometimes fans forget that they are talking about humans with emotions despite their uber-athletic abilities. Finding some humanity in one's self before hurling vitriol could really help elevate the way most spectators watch the WNBA.