In one of the busiest free agency seasons in WNBA history, there have been more moves and shuffles. First up, New Yorkers. Queens native Tina Charles will join her Olympic teammates Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner on the Phoenix Mercury roster. While one New Yorker comes, another departs. The Mercury traded Long Islander Bria Hartley to the Indiana Fever.

Rumors of Olympic gold medalist and 2021 WNBA Champion Stefanie Dolson signing with the New York Liberty proved accurate. It was announced on Feb. 3 that she would return to her home state—although calling her a local is a bit of a stretch as she grew up more than 80 miles from Brooklyn. The Liberty also announced that it waived guard Jazmine Jones and forward Leaonna Odom, both of whom played two seasons with the team.

Another huge announcement is that the WNBA has accomplished the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property, $75 million. The investors include current WNBA and NBA owners, among them Joe and Clara Tsai, owners of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty, former Liberty player and executive Swin Cash, as well as individuals and companies not previously associated with the league. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league now has the funds to invest in brand elevation and marketing, innovation and thoroughly addressing some of the league’s obstacles to growth.

“We definitely take a huge step forward,” said Engelbert, who said people cannot expect a change overnight. Rather, this is an investment that will unfold over the next three to five years. She said funds could now go into enhanced player marketing, elevation of fan and consumer touchpoints, digital innovation and introducing the WNBA into consumer spaces, such as fashion and culture.

Obviously, a significant goal is to increase the WNBA’s fanbase. Engelbert said, “Whenever you are thinking about your fanbase, you have to determine and define with data who they are today…and how do we bring them into an arena and how do we make sure they’re watching us on TV?”

These are issues that should have been examined 20 years ago. After an initial excitement around the league’s launch, the fanbase waned and there was little reflection on why or how to continuously bring in new fans.

While we appreciate and applaud this fantastic new investment and have huge hopes for the future, it would be nice to see honest reflection on missteps and outright bad decisions. It seems reasonable to expect that the past can be addressed while the brilliant future unfolds.

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