CATHY ENGELBERT: Hello, everyone. I hope you and your families are doing well, remaining healthy and safe. That’s the most important thing. I know my family
and I have been quarantining and social distancing, etcetera, and hope you all are, too. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to speak today. I know this is an unusual, unprecedented situation that we’re all faced with. As you’re aware, we’ve recently announced a delay of the WNBA season, originally scheduled for a May 15 tip-off. We’re using this time to scenario plan regarding new start dates and innovative formats. But obviously our guiding principles, as I’ve said in my statements that I put out, continue to be the health and safety of everyone that we would put — players, teams, coaching staffs and then obviously essential employees. We continue to look forward. We’re building off the momentum, I think, of last year’s thrilling five-game Finals. You’ll see that tonight as that will be played on ESPN right after the draft. We’re excited for that. There were a few games on yesterday, some classics. In January, just three months ago or so, we announced our groundbreaking new CBA. We were really looking forward to a great season. We had an interesting offseason, if many of you followed, with free agency and some trades.We have our bright spot tonight. Excited about the WNBA Draft, first ever virtual for professional sports in what I call the modern era, beginning at 7 p.m. on
ESPN. I’ve had a lot of fun and challenges transforming a room in my house into a makeshift studio. For instance, I’m using a sweater drying rack to hang the jerseys up and a lot of other household items that hopefully you won’t see in the camera shots. A few other aspects of the room have been totally redecorated. Having a little
bit of fun with that, and my kids are, too. We felt it was really important to move forward with this as a virtual draft because prospects who had worked so hard, they didn’t get their NCAA Tournament, and so to hear their names called tonight, I think we’re going to make some dreams come true for sure. It also provides our teams the opportunity to build their rosters and strategize. We’re excited about it. The teams are excited about it, and the prospects are, too. I’ve called each of the top prospects to talk them through whatever a virtual draft might look like because obviously we’re all going through this for the first time together. We have a very strong class this year. You all have done a lot of research on them, which we appreciate. Our rising stars. The unanimous 2020 National Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award winner, three-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner, Sabrina [Ionescu] from Oregon. There’s three from Oregon: Ruthy [Hebard], Satou [Sabally] and Sabrina. We’ve got prospects from South Carolina, Baylor, Texas, UConn. A great, strong rookie class this year to come into the WNBA. In addition to the players, a few notable components of the draft we’re incorporating this year. We’ll incorporate, as I think we previously announced, honoring the three girls that tragically passed away in the helicopter accident with Kobe Bryant on January 26. We’ll also unveil a special announcement during the program on how the league will honor NBA great Kobe Bryant. Another thing we’re doing is, in talking with the players and the league and the teams, we really wanted to do something because we are having this virtual draft in the middle of the pandemic, a charitable component. So the WNBA, the WNBPA and our very generous draft presenting partner, State Farm, are going to team up and donate $20,000 for every first-round pick, or a quarter of a million dollars by the time we get through the first round, to an organization called Direct Relief. The players and myself really wanted an organization that is providing PPE and essential medical items to help workers respond to COVID-19, front-line healthcare workers. That’s what Direct Relief does. Third, we’ve tried to make this draft as innovative as we possibly can. Never had a two-hour draft on ESPN, so here’s a lot of learnings as we go and I’m sure we’ll learn some things throughout the live broadcast tonight. To make it special for the prospects, we sent them gift boxes and we used augmented reality Snapchat technology to create a video. I recorded videos that were sent to the prospects. They would actually scan this icon and it pops up with me with a personalized video to them and then some footage from their college career. I think some of them are posting them on social media. If you haven’t seen them, it turned out pretty cool. We’re also experimenting with some augmented reality activation during our broadcast, partnering with Google. Fans can open the Google Lens app from their phones to scan various logos including during the ESPN broadcast, online or anywhere where WNBA
logos exist. That logo, when you scan it, will direct fans to our online draft hub. Team logos will also provide additional targeted content to that team. Even postdraft, we think we can use this activation. It’ll still be live and we can provide updates on the league to fans around tickets and their players and other content.
As you know, one of my three pillars, our three pillars at the league level, in addition to being player first and the economic models, was fan engagement. So we’ve
turned this into a little opportunity, I’d say, this challenging time into an opportunity. Proud of what the team has been able to execute there.Again, we’re excited for tonight. With that, thank you again for all your support and coverage, and I’m happy to take any questions.
Q. Cathy, I hope you’re doing well. I have a two-part question. First one is in your scenario planning, is there any plan to have the league potentially starting in the fall or the winter if it’s necessary, if the health pandemic is not to a point before that that you could do it?
CATHY ENGELBERT: It’s a good question. Obviously our goal is to have a season when it’s medically advisable and feasible. I keep saying that. We continue to scenario plan. Other than deferring training camp and the tip of the season, we haven’t taken any of our other options in our scenario plan off the table. Talking
with our owners, players, again, whether it’s with or without fans, whether it’s at a neutral site or multiple sites or back in our arenas. Our goal is to have a season. We do have this opportunity because of the month we were going to take off of the Olympics, which was mid-July to mid-August. We weren’t going to have any games, so we have that opening now. Again, we’re looking at it’s a little bit of a Rubik’s Cube because as you all know, every day there’s emerging information coming out on the situation here by regions and in the U.S. and around the world. Everything is on the table. We could play into the fall for sure, but we’re going to try to get a semblance of a season in this summer into the fall.
Q. And the follow-up question is economically, I think you guys start paying players once they get to camp. Are you guys going to do anything different because there may not be camp until June, July, August and there are first-year players, second-year players who may need some kind of funds to take care of themselves financially until you guys actually start the season?
CATHY ENGELBERT: The player pay actually starts later than camp. It starts more after the tip of the regular season. So we do have a little more time to evaluate that. But our goal right now is to get through the draft tonight, to onboard some of these rookies, to get the teams starting to think about their rosters and have a season. Obviously we’re having discussions constantly internally about all of the financial impacts of coronavirus on sport. There’s a lot of great thinking going on and a lot of great minds. We’re talking to infectious disease specialists. There’s a lot of data. I’m a big believer that we’ve got to follow the data and the medicine and the science and the feasibility and then do all the scenario planning, financial, medical and kind of basketball operations also with that.
Q. If the New York Liberty do end up taking Sabrina Ionescu, I’m wondering what you think that means for the Liberty as a franchise given where they are? And number two, what it means to the league to have someone of that significance added to the largest media market for the league?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, thank you so much. Obviously I don’t have to tell this group that Sabrina’s resume speaks for itself. National Player of the Year. I
didn’t even know until I was prepping for this, threetime Nancy Lieberman Award winner. Wooden Award winner; I knew that, obviously. So her accolades truly
speak for themselves. She’s talented. We’re excited to have someone of her caliber and most importantly her character in our league. I think the Liberty, should they select her, it’s exciting for New York. I saw some of the media coverage in New York today, so we just — again, as you know, a big priority of mine was really to focus on marketing and marketing the league and our players, and driving household names and then engaging the fans in a different way. That’s all things we can still work on even through this crisis. We’re excited, again, not just for Sabrina, but this very strong rookie class. I know that you’ll be hearing these names tonight, and it’s not just Sabrina. It’s the others as well. So we’re excited. But certainly her resume speaks for itself.
Q. I was wondering if you can share what came out of the conference call that happened the other week with the President with the different commissioners including yourself?
CATHY ENGELBERT: I participated in two different calls. One was preliminary. One was after the administration announced the different industries as part of the return, the economy, task force. I think what’s helpful is hearing the other commissioners talk about challenges. We all have obviously similar challenges, whether you were in season like the NBA was and the NHL, or whether you were just tipping the season like baseball was and like we would have been in May. Now we’re all kind of in the same boat and similar challenges as to how we think about starting up sports with or without fans and the different complications and logistics that come with that. But there’s no doubt that everybody’s focus is on the health and safety of everyone that would be involved if live sports were to go live again, for lack of a better word. I think that’s why I said in my opening remarks it’s about data and medicine and science and testing and hopefully a vaccine some day and antivirals, which some are showing some promise here. Things are changing every day. The one thing I heard the other day was everyone is making so many predictions. All I know is predictions today will be wrong, not only in the future but maybe even tomorrow. We’re monitoring all. I think all the commissioners are thinking through what to do and when and what the medical advisability and feasibility really means to get sports back.
Q. I’m wondering if in your scenario planning you begin to think about repercussions down the line that involve the international leagues, concerning the players obviously playing overseas, and if you’ve been in discussions with other league presidents or commissioners from Europe and Asia regarding the schedule and the kind of impact that would have?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, I think it was a good question even pre-coronavirus because with an Olympic break that we had scheduled, within the years of the FIBA World Cup for basketball, the scheduling can be challenging in those years when you have international competitions. And notwithstanding that, many of our players, after our regular season and playoffs, still play overseas. So we were already having discussions with FIBA and others. Now everybody has been kind of scrambling because a lot of the European leagues got halted when this happened back in March. The China league obviously hadn’t come back from their holiday break because it had hit China first. I think this actually gives us an opportunity. I think in every crisis you find the opportunity the way we’re transforming the league or the way we’re reaching out internationally to discuss scheduling and how women’s basketball broadly around the world benefits from the opportunities that we have today and the momentum we have today. Absolutely, we’ve got to collaborate more. That was already one of my goals going into the season. And
now I think this coronavirus and the disruption it’s causing on the back end of the European leagues and the front end of our season are going to give us the
opportunity to collaborate more and build relationships.
Q. My question is just about some of the details for tonight. Obviously this is a new format and kind of all eyes are going to see how it shakes out. Is everybody just basically on one conference call into the league as far as the teams’ communications with the league? Are there video components? I’m more interested in some of how you guys are communicating back and forth between the teams in their individual locations and with the league as far as just doing this whole thing
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, so this is something obviously we’ve been preparing for over the last couple weeks since we moved to virtual. It doesn’t seem possible it’s only about a month or so ago that this all happened and the NBA shut down and then we went to the virtual format about a week or so later. The nice thing about being in 2020 doing a virtual draft is we have a lot of availability of technology, a lot of bandwidth. All the investments in technology that have been made — I was thinking if this happened 10 years ago, even five years ago, this would be a little more difficult. But we’re using a lot of remote technology. We’re using conference calls, the VCs, the good ol’ telephone as a backup, by the way, and calling in the pick. I’ve got a variety of technology that will be in front of me in the room and then remote ESPN cameras that we’ve been testing over the last couple days. Everything seems good. I have the appropriate bandwidth in the home.
Yeah, it’ll be interesting. And then ESPN will do split screens between me reading picks, hopefully to capture the reaction of the prospect who gets named
and their families. ESPN deserves a lot of credit for the production side of this because while it’s complex on my side because it’s in my home, it’s super complex on
their side because we don’t know who’s going to get picked when. They have the ability to have multiple players being shown, so as soon as I read a name, they’ll be able to go to the home. We will have some live stream hopefully of the top picks, certainly the top six to 12 streamed in the first round, and some of them will be interviewed. Not everyone will be interviewed that might be on the live stream, but some of them will be interviewed. And again, we have a couple very special moments tonight where we’re honoring the girls, honoring Kobe. We’ve got a lot of content tonight to fit in to the two hour show. One full round, and then the second and third round, I think some of the names will be announced live and all of them will be shown but not everyone will be interviewed in all three rounds.
Lots of technology. That’s all I have to say. It’s more than fingers crossed that all the technology works. We’ve got backups. My kids are going to help me. That
will be fun because I’m going to be holding up jerseys for the top 12 for the first-round draft picks. Needed a few assistants, and they’re now on the payroll.
Q. Before the teams get their pick in to the league, everybody is on one conference call? Is that how that’s working out?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, so they will essentially get a pick in to our general counsel, which is how it would have occurred before, and then I have a direct line to that group both through iPads and through telephone.
Q. I was just wondering if you could go into a little bit more of the specifics of what the WNBA season might look like this season. There’s been reports of starting the season without fans or maybe playing in one city. What are just some of those scenario plans that you guys have or some ideas of what you guys are looking at?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, so I think you kind of named how we’re thinking about it already: with or without fans, one site, multiple sites, in our arenas, not
in our arenas, at neutral sites, at sites where there maybe isn’t as much exposure. We know there are hot spots around this country. We’re not taking any options
off the table, and we’re doing a lot of analysis. The one thing we know is what we were doing a week ago — this is why it’s called scenario planning — you’re changing it because the next time you hear something from public health officials or we talk to the infectious disease specialists to determine the right course of action or see what the CDC is saying or the Surgeon General — we’re following everything. I will comment that we’re leveraging all of the resources we have both at the NBA and WNBA and outside, and we could innovate around different formats here. We could innovate around tournaments, players. But I believe as we get through this together as a society and as a country, the scenario planning we’re doing today, we probably won’t end up with one scenario. We’ll end up with — we may be employing multiple ones and a ramp-up to it one different way, and then as we get into maybe the fall when things have calmed a bit maybe in another format. That’s the purpose of scenario planning. And I’ll just comment when I was in my previous role in business, we did a ton of scenario planning around economic downturns. As soon as I came into the league, I started thinking about what levers would we pull should we hit some kind of economic downturn. I wasn’t thinking it would be a pandemic that would prevent the season from starting. We’re playing off the idea of how you pull levers in different scenarios and how you might have to have multiple scenarios actually be executed. Whether you’re in the middle of July versus the middle of September, you might do something different in both those time periods. So again, I think we’re fortunate to have the Olympic break because now that the Olympics are deferred, those dates have all opened up, should it be medically advisable and feasible to play. In the meantime, one of the things my team is working on is innovative ways to broaden our audience, get more exposure, use this draft as a platform off of that with this exciting core rookie group, and just continue the conversation. I also believe that corona will change sports forever from the perspective of how you engage fans and how fans come into the arena and how fans interact with staff and employees and players. So thinking about fan engagement and how we do a better job of engaging a fan at home because maybe there’s a scenario where more fans stay at home rather than come to arenas for all sports, not just our sport. I think we’re thinking about how broad the impact of this could be and how to continue the momentum around the WNBA. The one thing I know from being in prior economic crises, the decisions you make in the crises, when you come out you’ll be talking about them for five to 10 years, whether they worked or didn’t work. That’s why it’s important to keep going, keep executing the strategy and keep all the scenario plans on the table, especially in this fluid time where things are changing literally daily.
Q. My question concerns the WNBA Draft serving as a sense of, quote-unquote, normalcy to the American sports fan right now. It’s live sports. It’s something new to see. How does it feel to be a beacon of relative normalcy for the American sports fan at this point?
CATHY ENGELBERT: I appreciate that comment. And really what struck me is when I called the draftees, this is when I knew we had made the right decision.
Comments like — I’m going to make these comments in my opening tonight, so comments like “Thank you for making my dreams come true,” or “I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life.” And just for the American public that tunes in to ESPN tonight at 7:00 to hear that, to experience this, to see this diverse
group of young athletes who had some of their dreams thwarted with the NCAA Tournament, to realize their dreams. It was all worth it to me when I was talking
with them. One of the ones I called, the family was cheering in the background. It was so cute. It really made me feel like we did the right thing here. We need to give these bright spots to the American public, and certainly live sports is very much missed. We all know that. If we can do our part to get the conversation going again, we’re excited to do that and be the first ones out there with a virtual draft.
Q. I have two questions, please. First, what are your thoughts about Allie Quigley’s participation in the NBA Horse Challenge? And I’d like to know if you’ve heard from Senator Loeffler, part owner of the Dream, about the insider trading allegations against her?
CATHY ENGELBERT: First on Allie Quigley, obviously we’re extremely proud of Allie. And Tamika [Catchings]. Tamika showed well as well. Tamika is a great example of a WNBA legend, being inducted into an amazing Hall of Fame class this year, who got recruited to do that. And then Allie, obviously beating Chris Paul on Sunday night in the HORSE competition and then showing well last night. I actually was preparing so much for the draft I haven’t even seen it from last night
yet. But yeah, we’re very proud of Allie. She obviously has won our three-point competition a few times. Great personality. Very creative. I was very impressed with
her creativity, the shots that she took and came up with. I learned a few things. Next time I’m playing my son in HORSE, which we do often, I’ve got a few more tools in the toolbox now. But that’s great. And as far as Senator Loeffler, obviously anything related to that I would refer to her office. We’re not going to comment on that side of her world, which is the political side of her world. So no comment from me on Senator Loeffler.
Q. I was wondering if you could put into perspective what this entire experience has been like as commissioner because it probably hasn’t been exactly what you were expecting. A lot of things have come up, some that you did expect and some that you didn’t. But what’s it been like for you? Has this been a case where you sort of had to learn to audible about certain things that you weren’t expecting but just had to deal with?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, great question. One of our owners said to me the other day, you know, Cathy, you should write a book someday. Who would have thought? And actually today, interestingly enough, is my ninth month on the job as commissioner. A lot has happened in nine months. A lot that we have to be
proud of, challenges, obviously coming off David Stern passing on January 1, then Kobe and the girls. In the middle of that a successful collective bargaining
agreement launched, and then obviously this coronavirus. Again, looking even at last season, the transformation began in the brand, trying to ramp up the marketing of our players in a different way and building household names and rivalries and everything that we’re still going forward on. Signing WNBA Changemakers for the first time in a new model, in a new revenue model. Very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. It’s been quite a nine months, I must say. Coming off of a job where I was responsible for 100,000 people, I thought this one would be a little easier [laughing]. But it hasn’t turned out to be that, for sure. And obviously our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the coronavirus. I really think that, again, leadership steps up at your toughest moments, and this is one of those. Sometimes life is not fair, and you really have to stay focused. I think, again, those decisions you make in the middle of a crisis are ones that serve you well when you come out of it. That’s how we’re driving our leadership at the WNBA. One good thing that I think has come out of this whole crisis also is around how important communication and relationships are. As I look at my two digitally native children, who prior to this were around devices a lot, they realize how important relationships are when you get into a crisis like this. And how authentic leadership has to step up. Not everybody is going to react in a crisis the same. We’ve
been talking with our players, our teams, about the mental health aspect of a crisis like this and how it drains on people. People seem to be working harder
than they were before because it’s harder to get everything done when you’re not together in meetings and chats with each other. Using technology, too, to foster that relationship building has, again, been something I think that will change the way we all work going forward. Very interested in watching all this, articipating in it, leading it and then kind of doing a postmortem on what we did well and what we didn’t. Again, I think I’m fortunate and I’m blessed to have this role and blessed
to have had the career I’ve had, but to come in and hopefully help lead not just the WNBA but women’s sports and broader sports and the decisions we make
going forward this summer.
Q. I have a follow-up question to an earlier question that was asked to you about meeting with the commissioners. Did they take you and women’s sports seriously in terms of concerns that you have and how you had to deal with things?
CATHY ENGELBERT: As far as being taken seriously, this is one of the reasons I think Adam Silver was progressive when he named me commissioner. When
you’re commissioner, you have the same seat at the table as other commissioners, male or female. So again, I’m blessed to have that title and that gives you a seat to help lead the country out of this from a sports perspective, from that industry perspective. I would tell you there’s been many times in my career being a woman might have been an impediment. Not in this case, I don’t think. I think we have a strong voice. I think because we came off such a successful collective bargaining agreement, where we stepped up with the players, the investments, that helps. But also being commissioner definitely helps.
Q. Will you have further discussion with ESPN to have the draft on its main channel in subsequent years?
CATHY ENGELBERT: I just need to tell you what a great partner ESPN has been since I joined the league last year. Yes, of course we always want the WNBA on
in top media. Our overall strategy is to look at getting more WNBA games on more platforms that our future fans and our fans of today are consuming their live
sports on. We’re in constant communication working together to elevate the WNBA. Talked with many in leadership at ESPN over the past nine months. And
again, building relationships. It takes some time. So of course we hope that the success of tonight will lead into further success and top billing, not just on ESPN
but all the media partners that we have.
Q. My question concerns your timeline for resuming the season. I bring this up because the governors and mayors in cities have their own timelines and preconditions for resuming large gatherings, and in some cases it could go deep into the fall. Is there a process or a system for communicating with those municipalities or dealing with that potential hurdle?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yes, very good question. Very much at the top of the list of all the commissioners, including myself, around state, local and federal. You
need to be all working together, in addition to your own unique system of players, owners and everybody. So absolutely, in addition to all the medical advisors and
feasibility studies that we’re doing, what’s medically advisable, what testing would be available, when will we have a vaccine, an antiviral — in addition to that is
absolutely working with local and state jurisdictions as well as federal to determine what’s going to happen. Now, the one thing obviously we have — we’re in 12
markets, so our scale is a little smaller than some of the other major professional sports leagues. I think we have the opportunity to collaborate with the state and
local governments to support. But again, only when it’s medically advisable and feasible to do so. So there’s a list of what I call the what-must-be-true-in-order-tostart- back-this-season, and those are mainly driven by the medical and health advisability of starting back up. That’s how we’re working it. But certainly there’s
probably not a week that goes by that we’re not in touch. We’ve got like a daily list of everything going on at the state and local levels as well, and the cities and
the states in which we play.
Q. I have a follow-up question regarding your comments earlier about the importance of making wide decisions during a crisis, and you mentioned as scenarios come up, you and your team will be pulling certain levers. I’m wondering which levers are being pulled right now such that all 12 teams remain intact during this crisis which started as a health crisis and now has evolved into an economic crisis and making sure that the viability of the league remains solid?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, very on-point question as it relates to what we were already doing before this crisis around making sure that — my second pillar was
around kind of the health and wellness of all of our franchises, not just one of them. And obviously we have a diverse set of owners who have diverse sets of
businesses. We have two owners who you would have thought wouldn’t have been on a list who now obviously have been impacted because they’re in casino markets, MGM and Mohegan Sun. You see how this has impacted them. Talking with all our owners, some are small businesses. Some are larger businesses. Some are NBA affiliated; some aren’t. We’ve been talking and looking and gathering financial data with all of them together, collaborating. We’re working on having some semblance of a season this year and working with those teams to make sure from an economic perspective what we do makes sense. We’ll start with the medical and science and then we’ll move on to obviously the economic and make sure that what we do makes sense. I think some would say women’s sports are already at a bit of a disadvantage. We had a lot of momentum coming into this year, which is why I still have a level of optimism. This is a business and we’re going to run a business when it’s safe to do so. We’re going to navigate the complexities of how to run that business and we are going to help our team owners, many of whom are experiencing significant disruption as a result of the crisis; nothing to do with the basketball operations of their ownership. I think what’s important is we’re staying on top of it — communication, communication, communication. I’m thankful that I was able to build relationships over the last nine months before this happened. Work with these owners and make sure they know that we’re doing everything we can to have these scenario plans make sense to them, make sense to our players and then, again, with the backdrop of the medical and science.
Q. I know a lot of marketers are reconsidering their budgets right now given everything that’s going on, so I wasn’t sure if you could comment on the hope of bringing more brands or companies into that program.
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, so as you know, this is a big focus of mine, making sure we have the appropriate level of sponsorships and media and things like that. So while I’ll say the coronavirus put everybody into this big heap of scenario planning and looking at financials and things like that, we’ve still had some very positive conversations with sponsors we were talking to before. We saw yesterday the Microsoft deal — the NBA and the WNBA, we were part of that deal. So I have
confidence that as we come out of this, those companies that made the good decisions during the crisis and made the right investments and did cut back on certain investments, that will help them grow. We want to be part of that story for them as a league that’s growing, a league with a lot of diversity and a league that provides a platform for broader recognition of brands that we’ve been talking to amongst our group of fans that hopefully will be joining us. There are certainly challenges with companies. Sponsorships are always discretionary spend. I know that better than anybody from leading a firm of the size and scale I did before. But again, I think we have a unique narrative around why people would invest in us, and it wasn’t just for the traditional media metrics and those kind of things. I think in the crisis and when we get out of this crisis, that narrative is still the same. It doesn’t change. I’m pretty confident from the discussions I’ve had that, maybe some of them are on hold or slower than we’d like, but I think when we come out of this and as the economy starts to recover, we’ll be back where we were and hopefully reporting some more WNBA Changemakers.
Q. Following up on your comment before aboutthinking about new ways for the league to engage fans, potentially if more of them stay home or do things digitally as opposed to in person, I’m curious on your thoughts on ways you can monetize those opportunities, especially for a league where game receipts and tickets are a big
part of the revenue that you’re bringing in annually, especially at the team level.
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think the monetization has to be around technology and data. Again, maybe some of the traditional
sponsorship that you would have embedded into a fan engagement at home, working on different levels of fan apps and fan engagement from home, you could
always have them. You look at some of the platforms that have benefited from this crisis because people are home. I’m studying that and saying how can we replicate a business model like that for the WNBA postcrisis when, again, fans are going to be engaging with us in a different way. That’s something, when we get through the draft tonight, I’m really looking forward to getting to next week and getting to the next steps on exactly things like that that can help us grow our business and monetize opportunities. But I think it’ll come down to data, it’ll come down to exposure, it’ll come down to being known on different platforms and then some, I
think, innovative technology that we can deploy on people’s devices at home. We’re a league of a smaller scale and then maybe the bigger leagues could follow
up. We could lead on these kind of things. So that’s all the things that we’re working on behind the scenes.
Q. Are you guys concerned as a league at the growth at all? One economist told me recently when it comes down to sports and consumers and entertainment, it’s almost like going through rehab. You’ve got to go through rehab. You’ve got to teach the consumer about spending money and how to reintroduce them back to your product. Are you guys kind of concerned that that growth has been halted and what it’s going to take before it gets back to normal levels or pre-COVID-19 levels?
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, it’s an excellent question. My answer to the last question is exactly why I answered it the way I did, because I think it is going to
be different. We have to be thinking about the different ways to engage that fan, whether it’s from a merchandise, whether it’s from a watch on broadcast, whether it’s from a could you actually have a fan replicate the feeling in an arena by pumping noise into an arena because they touch something on their device or because they vote for their favorite shot or favorite play or could you use some kind of analytics to figure out what’s going to happen next on the court because you’re sitting at home watching it and have data in front of you. I do think that it’s going to be different that fans are –the ramp, even if you got fans back at scale, the ramp
to that is not going to be that quick. We’re going to have to figure out ways in the meantime until we figure out how we come out of this pandemic, what the right
vaccine possibilities are. I think that could be a very good thing like it was for other epidemics previously. Once they had the vaccine, people felt a lot more comfortable engaging the way they did before. There’s no doubt, though, until that all occurs, which I know is out there a little further, we’ve got to be innovative in the way we think to get fans back. I think that’s where all of sport could collaborate. Again, I think maybe some of the individual sports are different because of the way they already play. Obviously basketball is a very inside sport, very close contact, a physical game, et cetera, and usually a game where you interact with fans even physically through high fives or whatever. So we’ve got to think about all that and how we alter the fan experience. I’ve been quite impressed already with the agility and flexibility and the ways people have recognized exactly, as you’ve asked the question, that this isn’t going to be the same. Even if we conquer this pandemic, life isn’t going to be the same in live sports. So we’ve got to find different ways to engage those fans.
Q. Will there be any schedule collaborations or any other business collaborations with the NBA because I guess for the first time you guys would be playing your regular seasons simultaneously if this all works out? And two, were there any discussions with the NCAA concerning players like Chennedy Carter who are leaving school early for the WNBA Draft? Would there be any new conditions for that considering with the new CBA there might be more of a financial enticement for
CATHY ENGELBERT: Yeah, so first, on the WNBA playing at the same time as the NBA, I think we don’t share as many arenas as you think we share probably
across our 12 teams. But I also think where we do share an arena, it’s a time of opportunity that we could probably do back-to-backs or doubleheaders or look at
a variety of things around our current arenas. Or maybe bring some games to — if it gets to the point where we’re in arenas with fans, we go into arenas in other cities where there’s not a WNBA team, especially some of these big college markets where women’s basketball is extremely popular. That’s all part of the scenarios we’re looking at. I look at playing at the same time as the NBA as an opportunity to kind of do live look-ins across networks and things like that. I’m looking at it as an opportunity, not as a challenge. With the month of July into August opening up for us and having arena availability if we were to get back into our arenas — and we don’t know right now — we’re just scenario planning around that. And I’m sorry, what was the last part of your question?
Q. About players leaving school early for the draft
CATHY ENGELBERT: Oh, yeah. I think if you look at the history of the juniors who were eligible to enter our draft, this year is no different in number than other
years. It’s only a few. And so while we have a later age requirement than some of the other professional sports and these juniors are eligible by age and otherwise,
most of our draft class will be seniors who are graduating. I think what we wanted out of the CBA is to give a vision for those rookie players that they can get to the
veteran salary ranges, which are excellent. Whether they come in early or not, we look forward to them being in the league. I like the point that it’s not just the
salary and compensation here. It’s about all the other benefits for moms, for family planning, for travel, for fertility and everything else. I think I’m pretty proud of where we came out. I think if that entices young players to come into the league, if that’s their dream and they’re ready for it and they have the maturity level for it and their game is up to it, we welcome that.