WNBA announces plan to play a 22-game regular season in Bradenton, Florida
WNBA to play a 22-game season in Bradenton, Florida
Update: League commissioner Cathy Engelbert appeared on ESPN’s “The Return of Sports” Monday night and talked about whether players would want to play in the midst of social justice movements around the country and calls for police reform:
I mentioned that they’ll be all together for the first time in WNBA history in a single site. You know what I’ve heard from them is…let’s think about how strong our voices can be. Let’s think about what this platform looks like. We have one of the most diverse leagues in professional sports 80% black women, and all of our players are really, really actually looking forward to the platform that they can launch from IMG Academy around social justice and their voice….We had one of our star players, former MVP of the league, take a year off and now she’s taking her second year off, Maya Moore, to go work on criminal justice reform. We have a variety of other players who have had very strong voices. So, I actually think they’re looking forward to being together, to kind of launch a platform around how we can drive change and systemic change against the racial inequalities that are out there in the world today and certainly here in the United States. So, that’s we’re really looking forward to, a strong platform. And I think our players are as well and we’re going to work together with the players around that and make sure we support them in every way we can.
As far as concerns about COVID-19, Engelbert said that league would be looking to mimic the NBA’s medical protocols with temperature checks and other measures in a bubble environment to “make sure that we can provide them the safest environment medically speaking as well as logistically.” She added, “health and safety clearly is number one.”
The WNBA announced information about in-progress plans for the 2020 season two months after the league postponed the beginning of play due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to sources, discussions with players are still ongoing and the plan is not set in stone as many other details are still in the air.
- Each team to play 22 games at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL; regular-season action tips off in late July
- Players to receive full pay, full benefits in modified season
- WNBA 2020 season will feature a commitment to social justice
- Broadcasts to aired by ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBA TV
Release from the league:
After significant discussions with the league’s key stakeholders, including the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the WNBA today announced elements of plans to return to the court to begin the WNBA 2020 season. The league is finalizing a partnership that would make IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Official Home of the 2020 WNBA season highlighted by a competitive schedule of 22 regular-season games followed by a traditional playoff format.
Beginning in July, IMG Academy will be the home for each of the league’s 12 teams and serve as a single site for training camp, games and housing. The top priority continues to be the health and safety of players and staff, and the league is working with medical specialists, public health experts, and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place. Due to the fluid situation resulting from the pandemic, the league and players will continue to review the appropriate health and safety protocols and make necessary changes to the plan prior to arriving on site for the start of training camp and throughout the season.
“We are finalizing a season start plan to build on the tremendous momentum generated in the league during the offseason and have used the guiding principles of health and safety of players and essential staff to establish necessary and extensive protocols,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan. And, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”
“As home to some of the world’s leading athletes, coaches and performance experts, IMG Academy is thrilled to partner with the top basketball players in the world and the entire WNBA family,” said Tim Pernetti, Executive Vice President, IMG Events & Media. “We are truly looking forward to becoming the Official Home of the 2020 WNBA Season and working closely with the league in providing our best-in-class training and competition environment.”
Throughout this unique season format where all players will be at the same place, at the same time, a first in the league’s history, the WNBA will build on its commitment to social justice and will support players in launching a bold social justice platform as a call to action to drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change. The WNBA 2020 season will include a devoted platform led by the players that will aim to support and strengthen both the league and teams’ reach and impact on social justice matters. As recently announced, this began with the WNBA making donations from sales of its “Bigger Than Ball” women’s empowerment merchandise to the Equal Justice Initiative. “The WNBA opposes racism in all its forms, and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the latest names in a list of countless others who have been subject to police brutality that stems from the systemic oppression of Black Lives in America, and it is our collective responsibility to use our platforms to enact change,” said Engelbert.
“In our discussions with the league, we emphasized and they agreed that a strong commitment to a 2020 season will give the WNBA the chance to show the world that it’s taking the steps needed to secure our livelihood and well-being, while also providing the opportunity to amplify our collective voice,” said WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike. “We have always been at the forefront of initiatives with strong support of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, the LGBTQ+ community, gun control, voting rights, #MeToo, mental health and the list goes on. This is not only necessary from a humanitarian perspective, but it may be one of the biggest opportunities that this league has and will ever have.”
“As in recent CBA negotiations, the WNBPA Executive Committee worked tirelessly to represent the interests of all players as the league planned to launch a 2020 season,” said WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson. “Our society has learned or perhaps has been reminded of an important lesson: women are integral to the economic stability of their families and their communities. The league and the teams’ commitment makes a statement.”
Under the current plan, teams will report to IMG Academy in early July and regular-season action will tip off in late July after a team training camp period. Although the WNBA 2020 season will be played without fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league will continue to build on the current momentum around the WNBA and the players, while offering fans a front row seat at home thanks to broadcast partners ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBA TV and their ongoing commitment to women’s sports. Regular season matchups and times for WNBA 2020 Tip-Off presented by AT&T, will be announced at a later date.
Dream president and general manager Chris Sienko:
“After an exciting free agency and draft, the coaches and athletes are thrilled to start the 2020 season in the coming weeks. We are grateful for the efforts of all involved to get us to this point. Our biggest disappointment with this news is the inability to play in front of our fans and at our new home, Gateway Center Arena. However, we hope we can count on our fans to follow and support us – regardless of location. This will be a fun, action-packed season.”
“While we are sad we will not be playing in front of all of you amazing fans, we are excited to announce that our Fever games will be live-streamed at no cost to our fans. We will be sharing more information about where to watch the livestream in the coming weeks, stay tuned! Click Here to read the WNBA’s statement on the season!
While this season will be different, we couldn’t be more excited about the team Tamika and the coaching staff have put together. The players are excited to tip off the season and show their talents on the court. Once the information on where the streams of the games will be available, we will share those with you.”
“The Los Angeles Sparks support the WNBA’s return to play plan for the 2020 season at IMG Academy. As we move forward, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our players and staff and work with the league to ensure appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place. We look forward to continuing our mission of elevating women’s sports and using our platform throughout the season and beyond to help effect change.”
Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve:
“We are excited to learn more details on the footprint of the 2020 WNBA season and look forward to getting started. Though we will soon be starting the WNBA season, our team is committed to continuing the conversation around the racial injustice issues that permeate our society. It is important that we use our voices to amplify the inequities that black and brown people face every day and we will work tirelessly to address these issues, particularly, issues pertaining to police brutality, especially in Minneapolis.”
Mercury chief operating officer Vince Kozar:
“This is our moment to capitalize on the momentum around women’s sports, our new CBA, and what we are confident is an increased appetite for live sports in America. This is our moment to get back on the court and use basketball as the vehicle to measurable social change. Though we are disappointed that our 14-month effort to make the Madhouse home will be for naught, and even more so that we will not play in front of the X-Factor this year, this single-site solution saves our season and creates the safest possible environment for players, coaches and staff.”