What’s the WNBA?

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The WNBA is a women’s basketball league founded in 1996 with ten teams. It has grown to fourteen teams in 2008 and is known for its charitable and outreach programs. Despite progress, female players earn significantly less than male players.

The WNBA is the women’s National Basketball Association. Founded on April 24, 1996 and led by president Valerie Ackerman, the WNBA has grown into one of the most watched women’s sports leagues in the country. Sheryl Swopes was the first player signed for the 1997 inaugural season. Other season one players included notables Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Cynthia Cooper. Both Olympians and college basketball players were recruited to compete. During its initial season, the WNBA played its games during the summer when there was less ratings competition from other sports. Live games were broadcast on three networks: Lifetime, ESPN and NBC. The first, New York vs. Los Angeles was played on June 27, 1997. The games were considered a ratings success.

The WNBA grew from its original ten teams to fourteen playing in 2008. Cities represented by WNBA teams in 2008 include Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, Washington, DC, Sacramento, San Antonio, Seattle, Chicago and Detroit. Connecticut, Indiana and Minnesota are also home to WNBA teams. The league is united under its official slogan, “We Got Next,” a reference to the concept that it’s women’s turn to have their own professional basketball league.

Despite progress toward equality in the sports represented by the WNBA, even the most famous and experienced female players earn significantly less than their male counterparts. In 2008, the maximum salary for a WNBA player was $87,000 US Dollars (USD). That same year, the minimum salary for an NBA player was $412,718 USD.

The WNBA and its players are involved in many charitable and outreach programs, including initiatives that promote reading, breast health, and youth sports. The WNBA promotes reading through its Read to Achieve program, which donates thousands of books through reading events and book fairs. The Junior WNBA supports girls’ sports teams across the country.

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