Video: WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert discusses the league’s diversity initiatives, the Olympics, partnerships and more

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke to media on Tuesday via Zoom in a press conference hosted by the Dallas Wings. She discussed a variety of league issues. Some excerpts of the interview are below. For the full presser, watch the video above.

On social justice initiatives:

“I think what’s been so important to me as I came into the league, and towards the end of the 2019 season, but certainly last year coming off the collective bargaining agreement, was to really run a player-first agenda.”

The players are “going to work on health equity with the focus on mental health. They’re going to work on LGBTQ+ [issues] with a focus on trans rights, and they’re going to continue their work and civic engagement and voting rights.”

On the elevation of Noelle Quinn as the head coach of the Seattle Storm and Vickie Johnson as head coach of the Dallas Wings:

“This is hugely encouraging. I think that our board of governors and our owners are very committed. We have a diversity initiative within the WNBA we’ve been working on and talking with our owners about, and I think obviously, Vickie and Noelle are going to be great.”

On the efforts of the league to engage and provide access to minority media and reaching out to minority businesses:

“It’s not just minority media, but minority businesses employing them across the league at the 12 teams…. It’s also diversity and everything we do, again, our purchasing decisions, our sponsorship decisions, and certainly our media.”

On the Tokyo Olympics and contingency plans if the Summer Games are canceled:

  • “About a month ago, as soon as we started hearing about an uptick of COVID cases in Japan, I had my team start scenario planning. “What if the Olympics would not occur? Whether they’re postponed or canceled. So, we’ve been doing a variety of scenario planning around different tentpole events like our All-Star game, like our Commissioner’s Cup final.”
  • Players would have their time off, but “then maybe regroup and come back a little earlier than expected.”
  • Covid protocols would remain the same “although we’re doing really well with our vaccination rates.”

On the announcement of major partnerships with Google and Amazon Prime in early May:

  • “That was a pretty good week when you can announce partnerships with both Google and Amazon Prime…two of the biggest tech companies.”
  • “I just think it’s a really good sign about the state of the league, around the players and their amazing play on the court and their amazing platforms off the court.”
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