After seeing Bawful's post about the world's general lack of respect for the WNBA, I was reminded of my own ponderings on this issue.

Sometimes a solution is so obvious that it's not obvious at all. That appears to be the case in the "How do we make the WNBA popular?" conundrum. Is the NBA not advertising the WNBA enough? Uhm, no. I, Evil Ted, am very aware of the existence of the WNBA and have seen tons of TV ads for it, such as:


You could play these ads during every commercial break on every TV show on every channel. You could play them during the Super Bowl. You could tattoo the WNBA logo on Janet Jackson's boob during the halftime show. You could put it on the backstop greenscreen during the last out of the World Series. Hell, you could even paste the face of every female pro basketball player on the hood of every car in Nascar. But people aren't going to watch women's basketball unless there's an angle. And that angle will NEVER be that they play with the same skill and athleticism as men. It just won't. And I'm not being sexist here, or saying that there aren't plenty of women who could thoroughly kick my ass in a game of one-on-one. This is pure branding I'm talking about.

The solution revealed itself like a devine intervention during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and it's so obvious, it's almost silly. Did anyone happen to come across the U.S. women's basketball team playing Australia? Well, I did. And gosh darn it if I didn't find myself glued to the telly. Why? because the Australian Women's Olympic team was dressed like this:

Jackson

I give you...drumroll please...the Australian Opals. Are they the best women's basketball team on Earth? I don't know...and I don't care either. But I'll tell you what, if they're playing on TV in those uniforms, I'll watch them. And if I watch them play, it's inevitable that I'll learn more about them. And if I learn more about them, I might - just might - become a fan.

Frankly, I don’t understand why this hasn’t already been done. I mean, sure, there’s a level of implied sexism. The idea of “Hey, put on this tight outfit and maybe we’ll watch” might be considered a little tawdry. But if those involved in the WNBA are really willing to do anything to expand their fan base, how can they not explore this option? Is it such a big deal to change the uniforms to something more flattering of the female form? And who decided women basketball players need to dress like the men anyway? I think the current outfits make the women look like…well…men. So now you've got players who look like men, but don't play as well as men. This not only puts off potential male fans, but might even be anathema to young girls, many of whom want to be princesses and ballerinas when they grow up.

That's right. I said anathema. Deal with it.

There are certainly ways to spin the change – but a press release stating that “the new outfits are more streamlined, making players more aerodynamic, and the tight fabric eliminates shirt-grabbing fouls” would be comedic and needless. So don’t bother coming up with any reasoning at all, WNBA. Just do it, as Nike would say. The uniforms are tasteful enough to keep from offending the average female fan, but provocative enough to entice the average man. At least give a guy a reason to start watching, and that may be enough to improve the league’s popularity by default.

Here's a taste of how women's basketball should look. And with high definition - the greatest invention on Earth - I can guarantee you'll be watching, gents.


Labels: ,

49 Comments:
Anonymous Wormboy said...
I think you're on to something here. Just look at how often beach volleyball was plastered on our televisions during Olympics prime time. Oh, and the lingering shots of divers in the showers. Clearly that is what sells.

I'm guessing no tans and shades though. :(

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Yes, yes, yes!

THOSE women look like women. Strong, confident, willful, independent, athletic women. THAT's what I'm talking about. The aussies have got it right.

It's amazing how much the uniform changes the game.

Would I watch WNBA if they wore those unis? I'd definitely give it a shot. NOW imagine one of them tea-bagging the other on a two-handed jam on that 9-foot rim they should be playing on. HELL YEAH!!

Anonymous CrashDavis said...
By this logic, wouldn't women's college volleyball be the most popular sport in America?

Blogger BJ said...
Well . . . to keep it fair, the unis should be redesigned across the board. Exactly form-fitting wouldn't be practical for the guys -- for obvious reasons -- so how about a return to the short-shorts and snug tanks? Equal slobbering rights! Why can't I spend forty-eight minutes staring at sharply defined manly muscles and thinking impure thoughts?
-BJ

Blogger m. Alana said...
Indeed. Get the girls some new uniforms, and get the boys in actual uniforms instead of just matching wife-beaters and baggy shorts, too. I approve of more athletic uniforms. Basketball uniforms in general are no better than those baggy sweat-suits baseball players wear.

Anonymous Nick F. (Buck Nasty) First Time Since '69 said...
I can get onboard with this. Also, the next time you come up with a slogan for marketing, make sure it's proper grammar so you don't sound like a 5 year old.

Expect Greatness

Blogger Victor said...
"I think the current outfits make the women look like…well…men. So now you've got players who look like men, but don't play as well as men."

Bingo. Think how much less appealing the NBA players would be if they dressed like women.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Couldn't agree more. Also check "lauren jackson" on a google image research

Blogger Drake said...
All I can say is only, remotely possibly, maybe I'll watch.

The main problem remains, however: WNBA games are simply low scoring, sloppy looking affairs that make you wonder, "Why the hell is this on at primetime?" If this aspect improves by leaps and bounds over the next few years, then I couldn't care less what the players wear. The unitards would only be icing on the cake.

But honestly, I don't see either happening.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think they should be playing in beach volleyball outfits. But before they do that they have to figure out a slogan that is grammatically correct: you "expect greatness." You don't "expect great." That's like saying you "strive for perfect."

Andrew Gregg, Toronto

Anonymous Baguete said...
If I ever want to watch hot women on TV, I'd never think of watching basketball, even if they played naked (like in Brazil).

Of course its a good thing to change the unis to something more appealing as cool, like Brad said earlier in another post. But I really dont think more people would watch more just because of that.

I understand that if the WNBA players look hotter and/or cooler, maybe girls start to play more, get more into the sport and THEN watch the games.

Other than that, just with the unis, WNBA would never beat Gossip Girl.

Blogger Browny said...
You are so right! How do I know you are right? Because I must have watched, at least 20 hours of all kinds of Female volleyball during the Olympics and I DO NOT EVEN KNOW THE RULES! There is a reason FIFA is considering putting female soccer players in tighter shorts, if men won't watch for the athletics, they will watch for the aesthetics.

Blogger Anthony said...
Disagree with this article. Do you know how ugly WNBA chicks are?

Blogger urarunner said...
Im the one who posted the comment bout Candace Parker in the first place so I figured that I would comment here.

The WNBA is completely unwatchable. The marketing sucks, the uni's suck and the chicks look like they all have dicks. Except for Parker, she is totally hot. Im tired of chicks trying to dunk on the rim like they play in the NBA and if they are going to do some crap like that, then lower the rim so it doesnt look like they are trying to make a lay-up and grab the rim at the end.

But I just wanted to give Parker her props just from a ballers POV cuz that trifecta of awards is something that hasnt been done in basketball ever

Anonymous Stanko Zovko said...
I am going to have to agree with this.

I have been watching the WNBA soley because I have been a basketball junkie for quite a few years now. I have been to several WNBA games and keep up with the league halfheartedly.

My one problem has always been the super baggy uniforms they always wear. Since girls have a much lower center of gravity than men it always looked strange. I always felt wierd seeing these people in baggy clothes with low centers of gravity playing basketball.

It is hard to put into words but the the asthetic of the players movements were so foreign to me after having watched decades of mens basketball that it was almost off-putting. The uniforms they wear really hide all of the subtlety and grace of the players movements. It made them all look like they were doing these hearky-jerky moves with no style or control. I would always watch the league and think to myself there will never be a Dr J type player who you love to watch because of the sheer style they exude when they play the game.

One way to fix this is to have more form fitting clothes. I think for the pure asthetic of the game it would help.

Anonymous Aussie Bob said...
Couldn't agree more, the Aussies have got it sussed out.

Also, some of the Opals girls are happy to appear in lads magazines. No, really.
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23558539-421,00.html

Whatever makes people tune in is a good thing.

I;ve always wondered why they don;t put the rings down to 8&1/2 or 9 feet for the ladies. get a few dunks happening. It would be good for the game!

Blogger Brad said...
For the record I did not like the Australian women’s outfits, they reminded me of bathing suits from the 50's, or of a wet suit for scuba diving (Maybe a sci-fi outfit from the future) The Brazilian women had much better fitting outfits and my wife even commented that they looked cuter. I am trying to spontaneously motivate my daughter to play the game, so we can play together, and the baggy shorts looking like a man doesn't help, she likes frilly princess stuff, but also likes sports (Why can't they like both?). I really am hoping that the WNBA is paying attention. We just need one brave owner to institute the bad, awesome proud of ourselves attitude (we are athletic and look good) that will make the first awesome WNBA team. Seriously though, there are a lot of good looking women that play basketball in the WNBA Parker, Hammon, Leslie, Candice Wiggins, and there will be more. Most of the women that play basketball have great bodies because of the amount of exercise and time they put in. http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/deadspin/2008/10/sconnies.jpg "Those last ones would be awesome uniforms, as long as they were the right type of material.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Australian womens team have been using these uniforms for many years now, at least since the 2000 games and possibly since 1996 in Atlanta.

Brazil also used to use it, but they changed back to the traditional style for the last Olympics. I remember a few years ago a debate about the lyrca vs jersey uniforms, and in women's basketball teams could choose either.

BTW for the record, the Australian women's basketball team has won silver medals at the last 3 Olympics, we just cant find a way to beat you damn Americans...We did win a gold at the 2006 FIBA world championships against Russia.

Anonymous Katchoo said...
I'm all for Diana Taurasi playing in a wetsuit.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
yea i know how to get people interested in a woman's sport! turn them into sex objects! completely degrade them and take all attention away from the sport they're being paid 2 play. Ahh yes that's the way to gain attention! WNBA, they put the ASS in class. WNBA T n A on TNT.

Anonymous Sun Devil said...
Stephan Marbury is intrigued.

Blogger stephanie g said...
I'd also love to see a return to tighter fitting jerseys in men's basketball. I hate the modern style where it practically billows when some player's are moving quickly or jumping through the air. This is really obvious when a highlight reel has a mixture of modern and 90s players.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Sorry, anonymous, but to play devil's advocate, this is mostly a marketing issue. If you're trying to market to a male-dominated customer base, it has to be visually appealing. That's just the way guy's minds generally work. To market to women, this is less important than the power of suggestion, as stated before by the "anathema" towards looking homosexual or like men. The WNBA could fix both these problems with this uniform idea, as long as they can come up with a better spin/marketing of why they're doing it. Hell, even women's golf has very subtle differences in dress appearance (a great balance between visual appearance and suggestion for a 50/50 target audience).

Stuff the whole "sex objects" whining, that been passe for ignorant teenagers since the 90's.

Blogger Al said...
It doesn't matter how passe you think it is, it really is objectification. It's obviously a marketing issue, but at what cost? The achievements and skills of the women of the WNBA. They're forced to market themselves, not through their skills, but through their bodies. What kind of a message does that really send to little girls? Although I COMPLETELY agree, it would make it much more enjoyable to watch, if this happened, it'd be a dark day in sports and women's equality.

Blogger Zach Martin said...
I think it also helps they have players named Sporn. The implications make it even more watchable.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
"I COMPLETELY agree, it would make it much more enjoyable to watch, if this happened, it'd be a dark day in sports and women's equality."

Come on, Al. Getting rid of baggy menswear and opting instead for more attractive, more flattering uniforms wouldn't be a dark day for anyone. Nobody need attribute darkness or objectivication or sinister motives or the end of the world to this.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
The women's basketball team has a 100% record in Gold medals in the Olympics since the WNBA was implemented.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May have a 112 game winning streak which beats the living $!%$# out of any other winning streak in all of sports. Not only that, but it stretches across multiple years and different tournaments.

Actually I just found out that the US men's baseball team also had a 112 game winning streak as well.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
if by "women's equality" you mean 'pretending that men and women are exactly the same, as is the quality of their basketball', then yeah, a dark day indeed.

Blogger BJ said...
Al -- Yeah, the thought of marketing the WNBA on the player's physical attributes makes me uncomfortable too. But as far as making the sporting world take women's pro ball seriously, having the players look sexless isn't working.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
What ET said.

A dark day in sports and women's equality? Easy there, tiger. We aren't talking about taking away their right to vote here...

For chrissakes, look at CHEERLEADERS if you want to talk about objectification and inequality of the sexes.

Last time I checked, women don't exactly WANT to look like men... in fact they go to great lengths to look feminine. All this jibber-jabber about "objectifying" women and so forth is really cliche. Wearing form-fitting unis does not degrade, detract, de-humanize, or de-anything anybody.

I think the guy's uniforms are pretty horrible these days, too. I would enjoy seeing the not-too-short shorts and tight jerseys of the early 90's again instead of the tents that players drag all over the court these days. Why not just wear a full parachute with a ball-and-chain while you're at it, fellas? Fact is, I enjoy watching well conditioned, chistled athletes more so than doughy ones, whether male or female. It's part of what makes them so impressive. Show us the goods, ladies and gentlemen!

Does that mean that I objectify men as well as women? Well... maybe... but if you ask me I just know ugly when I see it, and I prefer not to look at ugly if I don't have to.

Anonymous K_Digital said...
I completely agree with you, Evil Ted.
I have never watched a single second of women's basketball before in my life. But then I stumbled across the Australian women's basketball team (and their uniforms) playing during the Olympics. And, like you, I found myself watching...and enjoying...women playing basketball.
I don't see how anyone could get offended by these uniforms. It's not like they're playing in bikinis or lingerie...although that would be awesome.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I agree with this. It's just like watching Anna Kournikova play tennis wearing those skimpy outfits - I mean she's not that good, but she looks good... therefore she's good enough to watch...

It helps the game's popularity and it helps her get Enrique Iglesias.

So why can't this be done in the WNBA?

Blogger Al said...
You can say that women and men aren't equal, which is true. However, the fact that you found yourselves interested in the Australian hoops team's game, and you can honestly cite the reason you were interested is the uniform, how is that not objectification? You're acknowledging that the only reason people would be tuning in to watch, initially, would be to see the women's bodies.

dave, jibber-jabber? cliche? It's a reality, dude. Marketing an entire sport based on the women's bodies IS, in the truest form, objectification. The form-fitting unis would only be USING the women.

Anonymous ak dave said...
al- riiiight, and I already admitted to the "objectification" thing. apparently I objectify men, too, because I prefer men's unis from the early 90's to todays modified hammer pants. and Charles Barkley in short-shorts is DEAD SEXY.

you use the word "objectify" as if it had the same meaning as "ethnic cleansing" or something. Isn't the point of being an entertainer to be objectified? Hmmm?

I don't see this objectification as harmful to anyone. how about you ask the women on the Aussie national team how they like their unis before you get all offended on their behalf?

let me know what they tell you, I'll be here.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Objectification or not - you can argue about that. But you can't argue about one fact that is known in marketing throughout the world: SEX SELLS!

Blogger Al said...
Dude, whether or not they're offended is besides the point. You're seeing them as sex objects, rather than athletes. That's the point. They'd be marketed as sexy-looking ladies, rather than basketball players.

Blogger Preveen said...
Al, I disagree. Your not marketing whole league as sex objects. The uniforms are just one aspect of the marketing. Whats wrong with people who play well and look good while doing it? Actually, they'll be marketed as sexy looking ball players, not just sexy looking ladies. We already have playboy for that. That just draws the eye and gets people watching. They won't keep watching unless there is something good about the game too. See what Ted said? "And if I watch them play, it's inevitable that I'll learn more about them. And if I learn more about them, I might - just might - become a fan." Thats all the chance they need.
Besides, in some cases, it doesn't matter how sexy you make the uniforms. They don't all look like Becky Hammon. Or Lauren Jackson.
Does it matter that Kobe Bryant's head looks like Gollum when he brings his game? Will it matter if Greg Oden looks like he is 60 if he keeps dropping 20 and 10? Phoenix had two players averaging 20+ppg this year, Cappie and Dee. In a 40 minute game. You think fans will loose sight of that just coz they are in tighter clothes? LJ has career bests of 47 points, 20 rebounds and 8 blocks. You think a basketball fan who started watching just coz she was in am Opal's uniform wouldn't catch onto the fact that she is a damn good player? Candace Parker has highs of 40 point, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks in her rookie year. Think people won't notice she can do this http://weblogs.newsday.com/sports/KBQB_blog/candace_parker.jpg just coz she looks like this?
http://www.volnation.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/candace4.jpg
The pretty boys with no game won't make it in the NBA. The pretty girls with no game won't make it in the WNBA. No marketing strategy will change that.

Blogger Al said...
You put it all together nice, and I agree with Evil Ted, that eventually, they may become a fan (although after the sexy marketing coaxes them into watching the games), but the simple fact that we isolate the resolution as "Let's just tighten their uniforms! That'll get them watching!" inherently says that it's NOT about their game, it's about their bodies. I really don't think that I'm looking into this too much, either.

Anonymous Save The Cheerleader said...
I'm a mom of four, I never watch basketball games, I'm highly conservative, and I love reading Basketbawful. On the surface, that sentence makes no sense. But if you go beyond the surface, it goes to show that not everyone or everything can fit in a neat, predictable package.


I really gave this post some thought and I have to agree - you don't need to turn the WNBA women into sex symbols, but it wouldn't hurt to emphasize their femininity. A more streamlined, tailored uniform would do that. I've attended a few WNBA games, thinking, "Oh, this is fun," but it never clicked beyond that. And it took this post and the all the following comments to help me see the negative subliminal impact those baggy, unflattering, unpoetic, and ugly unis were having upon the visual flow of the game.


WNBA players aren't ersatz men; they're women. Why not take pride in that fact and feminize the game a bit? I always thought basketball was "balletic" when played right (even for the men). Not that I'm suggesting tutus, but yes - chuck the boxy look that seems to make even the most airborne player look earthbound.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
save the cheerleader -- "I'm a mom of four, I never watch basketball games, I'm highly conservative, and I love reading Basketbawful. On the surface, that sentence makes no sense. But if you go beyond the surface, it goes to show that not everyone or everything can fit in a neat, predictable package."

Oh sure they can! You just have to cut them into the right number of pieces, and maybe run them through a wood chipper. Uh, so I've heard, and stuff. But we're glad you're reading, and even gladder that you agree. And you hit the nail on the head: WNBAers are women. Somehow, it's alright for chicks in other sports (figure skating, gymnastics, volleyball, etc.) to look like chicks, but when people suggest that maybe, just maybe the WNBA would be more marketable if its players looked more like chicks, it's all uproar and angst. I don't know why it has to be that way.

Blogger J.R. said...
Here's the thing. It's been done, sort of. I remember seeing highlights on ESPN when I was in high school, over 15 years ago. It was called the Liberty Basketball Association. I couldn't find any photographic evidence, but here's a quick write up on this page. Scroll down to the "Liberty Basketball Association" entry.

http://members.aol.com/bradleyrd/women.html

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Perfect simple solution! Fact is sex sells and you bring something radically different to the table. You bring an exciting women's sport kicking and screaming into the 21st Century!

Anonymous Norwegianplayer said...
Seriously!!!! If you guys wanna be turned on, watch some porn. I'm playing basketball myself, and I would like smaller shorts and more feminine tops. But I would NOT play in a bathingsuit. Let swimmers be swimmers, and basketballplayers be basketballplayers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Women's sports are failing and the numbers are in. The reason is WOMEN aren't watching.

http://www.aol.com.au/news/story/US-womens-pro-sports-continue-to-struggle/2398498/index.html

The WNBA needs male viewership. It's time they turned a deaf ear to whiny feminists and ditched the baggy uniforms. Female athletes are naturally hot. I want to see shorts that are actually short. Think 1970's ladies!

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/gallery/nba/2007/flash.htm?gdrop1=WNBA%20Uniforms

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Aussie chick traveled right after catching the ball in the top video. She clearly shuffled her feet.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
For example:

Florida State has a new website for their women's basketball team. It includes glamour shots of their players.

http://www.seminolehoops.com/team1.shtml

This has one columnist up in arms. "Feminising the game" is an "anti-lesbian tactic" Jayda Evans argues. By her logic, showing a female athlete in a dress is homophobic. She stereotypes all lesbians as jeans & flannel wearing butchies.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/womenshoopsblog/2010251932_womens_hoops_media_guides_and.html

If making a lesbian wear a dress is anti-gay, is putting a straigtht female athlete in a baggy, mannish uniform anti-straight?

Anonymous Mike said...
I think the WNBA should take a hint from the WTA (Women's tennis) and update their uniforms. Part of the appeal of watching Sharapova or Ivanovic play is that they look feminine and graceful. It makes me want to follow their games and root for them. Unlike the WNBA they manage to look graceful when they move and its definitely captures my attention as a fan of tennis.

Anonymous Tae said...
"You can say that women and men aren't equal, which is true. However, the fact that you found yourselves interested in the Australian hoops team's game, and you can honestly cite the reason you were interested is the uniform, how is that not objectification? You're acknowledging that the only reason people would be tuning in to watch, initially, would be to see the women's bodies.

dave, jibber-jabber? cliche? It's a reality, dude. Marketing an entire sport based on the women's bodies IS, in the truest form, objectification. The form-fitting unis would only be USING the women."

Hit the nail right on the head. I'm not a basketball fan myself, but I think this entry is ridiculous. The most a man needs to do is show his skills and he's recognized and respected. At the end of the day, these women are professionals and they work just as hard as any male basketball player and should be treated as such. If you're paying attention to their figures then you weren't watching it for the right reasons. There's plenty of GoDaddy commercials to satisfy your manly urges if you feel the need to. I don't see why women need to conform to a certain type of uniform in order for you to actually have the attention span long enough to pay attention to a their games.

It's not that this uniform is demeaning, it's your entry that makes it demeaning..the idea that someone has to wear something tighter so it can draw attention to your bodyparts in order to get you to pay attention.I'd go a step further and say it's immature and small-minded.

For the record though, I have nothing against this uniform the Aussie lady is wearing. It looks like that of what those track runners would wear. She does not demean herself by wearing this, but insisting she needs to wear this in order for you to pay attention to her is a little sexist. I don't need men wearing boxer-briefs and being oiled up in order to watch the Super Bowl, and I hate football. I wasn't even thinking about their backsides either even though they were dead smack in my face.

At the end of the day these women are professionals and should be seen and treated as such in my opinion. I've seen plenty of unattractive male NBA players but my focus wasn't on their looks when those games came on.

What is with men in their incessant need for us to look more appealing in order for you to listen to good artists, music , watch good movies,etc?Are you so defined by your sexuality to the point where you can't watch an honest game without worrying about or fixating on the female figure? You do know this makes you the equivalent to the 14yr old teenyboppers who listened to Backstreetboys and N'Sync because they were "cute"?

I thought people watched BB because of the skills..but I guess that's wrong if you have a uterus.

Really this entry just exposes certain men's inability to focus on a female without being sexualized/feminized (even if it's by a little or what they would deem more attractive).

Anonymous Anonymous said...
FIBA Europe women's league have fixed the problem. (see pic) The WNBA/NCAA should take note.

http://www.fibaeurope.com/photo.asp?photo=files/{E461D7C3-372A-455A-8816-9C36CAE6E4DF}large_h.jpg

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