WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert joked Sunday she’ll have to get new shoes now that the league has added one expansion team, with another most likely on the way soon.
Engelbert has a pair of high heels with all of the WNBA team logos on them. The shoes will become a collectors’ item in 2025 when the expansion team owned by the Golden State Warriors starts playing. Engelbert expects to add another franchise to give the league 14 teams that year.
“The goal is to add a second one, or 14th team, by 2025,” Engelbert said before Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. “Not more for before ’25 but obviously longer term. I’ve said my goal is to get this league you know additional teams and additional cities that we think would be great. We have a lot of cities interested, which is why we didn’t announce the 14th team yet.”
Engelbert mentioned a few cities including Denver; Philadelphia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon, which is considered a front-runner. Portland had a WNBA team from 2000-02, playing its games at the Rose Garden before the franchise folded. There has been a strong women’s basketball fan base in the state over the past few seasons with the success of Oregon and Oregon State on the college level.
The city also has a big women’s sports presence with the NWSL’s Thorns, who won the league’s title last year and three overall. Portland also has the Sports Bra — the first sports bra dedicated to women’s sports — where Engelbert was part of a panel discussion on the WNBA earlier this year.
Other topics broached by the commissioner:
Dearica Hamby, the Los Angeles Sparks forward, filed a gender discrimination complaint last month against the WNBA and the Las Vegas Aces, saying her former team and its coach, Becky Hammon, retaliated against her after she informed them she was pregnant.
The league investigated the original complaint in the offseason and suspended Hammon for two games.
Engelbert said she “wasn’t going to comment on too many specifics because it’s obviously a pending litigation at this point with the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Obviously, we’ll cooperate fully, we’ll see whether there’s new information we didn’t have the original time, and I’m going to let the lawyers do the work first before we have any comment on whether we would do anything after that.”
The WNBA had strong metrics again, with the league having its most-watched regular season in 21 years and its highest average attendance since 2018. Viewership was up 21% over last year across its national television partners, and the league’s average attendance of 6,615 fans was its highest since the 2018 season. The league has expanded its schedule, excluding the COVID-19 pandemic year, going from 34 games in 2010 to 40 this season, which helped the WNBA gain its highest total attendance in 13 years (1,587,488). “We had an incredible season with many milestones,” Engelbert said. “Historical numbers, not just on the court, but also viewership, attendance, digital engagement.”