WNBA, Sky want more coverage? Good, it’s deserved — but maybe learn to deal with a little criticism

The WNBA has an image problem.

The problem is the league and its players want a bigger, better image — to be seen, to be respected, to be taken as seriously as other leagues — but not the occasional criticism and discomfort that inherently comes with it.

It’s not that teams and players don’t want to be covered by the media. They do, they should, and they deserve to be. But some of them just don’t know how to receive that coverage, not when it isn’t fawning.

Put the Sky at the very top of that list. The most recent example came Saturday and was a biggie, a contentious press conference that made the rounds after the team’s 71-70 loss to Caitlin Clark and the Fever in Indianapolis.

Sky guard Chennedy Carter had taken a cheap shot at Clark during the game that wasn’t the end of the world in and of itself but — here’s the key — definitely happened. We know this because we saw it, with our own eyes and everything. Asked about it after the game, though, Carter hid behind a “Next question” and a couple of other variations on the “No comment” theme before her coach, Teresa Weatherspoon, came unnecessarily to her rescue, saying, “That’s enough.”

It was fine if Carter didn’t care to explain herself in that moment — a no-comment is a comment in itself, any good journalist knows — but it was weak sauce. It was the sort of soft move we delightful folks in the media would rip another athlete in a different sport for without blinking. So, call things what they are — that’s kind of what we do around here.

Even lamer was rookie Angel Reese ducking out altogether on her postgame obligations to the media that were negotiated with the league and apply to all players, even ones with extraordinary allure and gifts for self-promotion. One could only assume she did that because — as prominently as she’s on social media, and as desirous of fame as she has demonstrated herself to be (not that there’s anything wrong with it) — she had to know videos of her celebrating Carter’s body check on Clark were making the rounds and criticism of her was roiling. A player sensitive enough herself to have answered, “Next question” to a run-of-the-mill inquiry after her not-so-hot play in the second half of a recent game didn’t want to be called on a bit of controversial behavior. At least, that was the only way to read her absence.

Other recent Sky members have been, at times, extremely sensitive to questions construed as criticism, even when it was simply being asked about a lost game or a cold shooting stretch or an opponent who had the Sky’s number. Former coach and general manager James Wade could be quick to get salty. Former player Courtney Williams took a baffling, highly inappropriate stance with a reporter of, “Are you for us or against us?” completely misunderstanding the role of an unbiased press.

It’s easy to criticize the Sky, if that’s what one wants to do. Their practice facility, if one can call it that, is so embarrassingly small-time, it’s like something out of a Christopher Guest movie. Speaking of small-time, the Sky were, for far too long, the only WNBA team that didn’t separate its coach and GM positions. From a PR standpoint, the whole organization needs to go back to school and learn a thing or two. That goes double for the PR department itself.

It’s the nature of public discourse in 2024 that a lot of people seem to need to align themselves entirely on one side of any issue and then assume all others have done the same. In that childish, unrealistic way of thinking, a person is either for the Sky or against them, for Reese or against her, for Clark or against her. It’s really pretty stupid.

Look, the royal we are paying attention to the Sky, the WNBA and women’s basketball more than a year ago and in all the years before that. It’s just a fact. It’s a good thing, isn’t it?

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