The NBA is picking up where it left off in March — with a marquee LA matchup tonight between the Lakers and the Clippers. They’ll be playing and living in Orlando, Florida. The WNBA also started games last weekend in Florida. The LA Sparks are at one victory and one loss.
Point guard Sydney Wiese says their union and player Nneka Ogwumike (who’s president of the union) have done a lot of work in negotiating with the league to make their new season happen.
“If you would’ve asked me two months ago if we were going to have a season, I would have said no way. With everything taking place with the virus, it just didn't seem logical or realistic. And so now that we’re here, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to play safely,” says Wiese.
Some players chose to opt out of the season, such as Kristi Toliver and Chiney Ogwumike. How does that affect the team?
Wiese says the team and league knew that this season would be based on individual decisions around health concerns, social justice, fighting racial inequality, and whatever else might be happening in players’ lives.
“I have nothing but respect for those choices. So for Chiney, she has amazing opportunities with ESPN, and she has had some injuries in the past. … She wanted to protect her safety, thinking about her own body, which made complete sense. And Kristi, she wanted to be present on the front lines, being able to go out [to] protest, enact social justice from outside of the bubble, use her platform in a different way,” says Wiese.
She says the team brought in two other people to allow Toliver and Ogwumike to do what they felt was best for them.
When it comes to risk, Wiese was one of the first WNBA players to test positive for COVID-19. She says she found out she had the virus about two weeks after coming home from a tournament in Spain. She says she knew she was going to be okay.
“It was more so making sure my parents were safe because I was staying at home at the time. … I kept my distance from them for about a month. … Thankfully my case was mild. My parents were made healthy,” she says. “And what's cool about it is I have the antibodies in my blood. So I was able to donate plasma a couple times. And so I wish that I was able to do that right now. But obviously duty calls. But once I'm out, I plan to … give blood plasma as often as I can.”
How has COVID-19 affected the team and league economically? Wiese says that the union and Nneka Ogwumike negotiated for many things that came to fruition at the beginning of this year. “It was groundbreaking. I mean, there were a lot of advancements, not just for our salary, but in the way that we travel, and hotel accommodations, mom accommodations, pregnancy.”
She adds, “It's really cool to see how the numbers have improved and the exposure is getting there. And it's so cool to see how hard the women in this league have worked to get to this point, and it's coming to life. And I don't take it for granted. And the season is just beginning, and it's going to be really amazing to see how it continues to blow up for people.”
— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Christian Bordal