Over the weekend Barack Obama made history by becoming the first sitting president to watch a WNBA game in person. On Sunday the president took daughter Sasha to see the Washington Mystics play, bringing much-needed recognition to a league that’s setting a standard for racial and gender equity in professional sports.
Since its inception, the 13-year-old league has struggled to build television ratings and mainstream marketability. And recent sports broadcasting trends have only made a bad situation worse: One recent study by researchers at USC found that mainstream television coverage of women’s sports has dropped from 6.3 percent in 2004 to a dismal 1.4 percent in 2009.
All this despite the fact that the league is annually rated the best employer for women and people of color in pro sports. Since 2008 the league has gotten an A-plus for hiring people of color in front-office positions. The annual studies are done by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, which this year gave the league more high ratings for hiring-practices of league officials, head and assistant coaches, general managers and players. This year 30 percent of team administrators were people of color.