Drake and I and others on the same WNBA page. If only it were as simple as wishing a team to get one
About time The Global Ambassador listened to me.
It was very nice of Drake – for who I have great respect as a promoter of sports and as a supporter of Toronto teams – to come out the other day and suggest the city needs a WNBA team.
And it was awfully nice of Nick Nurse to back him up later in the day, even if both of them were following Bridget Carleton’s most recent suggestion the league needs to be in Toronto.
I’ve seen firsthand over more than a decade what having accessible, successful, committed role models on the senior women’s team has done for the sport and young women in the country, it would be even bigger if there was a WNBA team, which is probably more viable and economically workable than a complete Canadian women’s league, although I hope someone’s working on a business plan for that.
And there are a couple of big “buts” that need to be addressed and I’m going to all wet blanket today and repeat them for the zillionth time.
First, and this is obviously the biggest, is that the league has to decide it even wants to expand. It’s at its highest level of support and awareness of its first 25 years right now but it’s not exactly a bullet-proof business yet. I can’t imagine any franchise is operating as a profitable year-to-year business and they need to be dead sure they’ve got their own house in order before they start looking for new partners. From what I know, commissioner Cathy Engelbert has the league on the right path financially, the owners (Atlanta might be the outlier) seem solid and maybe they just need a season or two more of solid existence before they plunge into expansion.
Then, of course, there’s an issue of local ownership and who they might be. MLSE is the obvious one and I know for fact they’re thinking more seriously about the possibility than they were a couple of years ago but the group did not get to be kabillionaires by being totally philanthropic and they need see that money works before they leap in.
I think they eventually will but they’re certainly not at the point yet and all the hindrances to any other ownership structure are legitimate, and likely crippling.
I don’t think anyone can come in, start a franchise from scratch and have to pay rent on a suitable facility, find sponsorship deals with basketball-targeted companies that aren’t already locked up by the Raptors and make a go of it.
It’s not easy.
It may have to be MLSE, it may to be MLSE and unknown partners who bring legitimate money and interest to the table, not the fly-by-nighters who pretended to be involved in a non-existent process 18 months ago or so.
They need to have pro sports expertise, know how to work the boardrooms and backrooms and have the connections that only Larry Tanenbaum and Masai Ujiri have.
I haven’t spoken seriously to either of them about the WNBA in some time – Masai used to jokingly shoo me away when I brought it up – but they are smart businessmen and savvy citizens: They’ll know how and when to start putting legit plans together.
The third one’s another biggie.
Toronto’s not alone. Oakland has already come out blazing, an all-Black ownership group aligned with former WNBA star Alana Beard got civic government approval a week ago and they’re light years ahead of anywhere Toronto is right now.
And if the WNBA says, ‘hey, we’re going to expand by two or four teams in two years, here’s the cost, give us your bids’ Oakland’s already ahead and others might be, too.