WNBA and Liberty Reflect on Decade of Inspiration

NEW YORK, May 8, 2006 -- Martina Navratilova once said, "I think the key is for women not to set any limits” and ten years since the WNBA’s inception, the New York Liberty is celebrating the league’s tenth anniversary and looking ahead to another great decade of growth and popularity for the sport.

In keeping with this milestone, the WNBA and the Liberty partnered for the Inspiring Women luncheon at Madison Square Garden’s Club Restaurant on April 27 to celebrate the accomplishments of women committed to raising the game both on and off the court. Successful women from throughout the New York area were invited.

ESPN’s Linda Cohn, who has co-anchored SportsCenter in addition to covering baseball, football and college basketball, hosted the luncheon and began by saying how honored she was to have been selected to call play-by-play for WNBA games on ABC and ESPN2 this season. In her good-hearted and humorous way, Linda talked about the competitiveness of the league and the importance of its mission to lead, inspire and change lives.

The first speaker of the afternoon was WNBA President Donna Orender. As a former college player, she talked about how, through basketball, she learned to compete, build confidence and develop what she calls the three D’s: determination, dedication and discipline. “When I played sports, I was one of 30 girls; today that number is 1 in 2!” she proudly stated.

To start off the 10th season, she declared that the WNBA is launching a “fun raiser” - to bring the fun and goodness of the women’s game to a larger audience and encourage inspirational women to do the same. To tip off that effort, she purchased two Liberty season tickets and suggested that everyone in the room attend a WNBA game this season.

The crowd applauded loudly when Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon stepped to the podium to talk about how playing for the Liberty, in The World’s Most Famous Arena, was a dream come true for a girl from a small town in Texas. “There is no better place to play than The Garden,” she exclaimed. “I have so many great memories here!”

She went on to say, “Today we are hearing from two pioneers (Donna Orender and Carol Blazejowski) - whose passion, commitment and devotion to women’s basketball paved a way for many others - and now it’s my turn.”

T-Spoon said that WNBA players, both past and present, take great pride in being positive role models and that because of the WNBA, people are starting to see female athletes as future leaders.

Carol Blazejowski
MSG Photos
Next up to the podium was Carol Blazejowski, Liberty SVP and GM, who received a warm welcome from the audience. She, in turn, thanked everyone in the room who had helped pave the way for other women in their respective fields. In drawing from her own experience, she reminisced about how growing up in New Jersey, her high school launched a women’s basketball team, only after she went to school officials to lobby for one.

Blaze talked firsthand about how the journey for female basketball players has been a difficult one but how perseverance and determination opened doors for millions of girls and women nationwide. And today, the WNBA is the only women’s professional league to have ever celebrated its tenth year.

She also paid special tribute to Liberty fans. “Over the past decade, the New York Liberty’s loyal fans have made Madison Square Garden an electric place to see a game,” she said and reminisced emotionally about the tremendous pride she felt upon walking through the Garden turnstiles, alongside other fans, for that first game.

“The WNBA has really evolved over the past nine years and every time the players take the court, generations of girls and women take one step closer to their own goals,” she told the audience. She went on to say, “The New York Liberty take pride in celebrating the accomplishments of women who have helped raise the game for everyone,” before explaining the second part of the Inspiring Women program. Luncheon attendees were invited to recognize the women who inspired them by bringing them to the Liberty vs. Comets game on Friday, June 16, where the team will honor them at halftime.