For the WNBA, community is key.
by Ben York
Unarguably, the WNBA and its players set the quintessential standard in terms of professional athletes genuinely having a noble penchant to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
It’s not even debatable.
Now, before I get hate mail from devout fans of other professional leagues, let me state that I respect and admire those athletes who do make a profound effort and emphasis on giving back. But if we’re honest with ourselves, collectively it’s certainly not close to what could be done with the amount of money that floats around the “big 4” – NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.
That’s why the WNBA gets the crown; they do more with less.
It’s no secret that WNBA players’ salaries are considerably less than other professional athletes; much less. The salary cap for WNBA teams in 2009 was $803,000. For comparisons sake, Kevin Garnett made about $300,000 a game for the Celtics in ’08-09 (about $25 million for the entire year). Thus, Garnett made more money in three games than the combined salaries of any WNBA team (11 players) for the entire 2009 season. This isn’t a knock on Garnett, not by any means (he does a lot in the community with his Foundation); it’s merely an illustration of the disparity in pay between the WNBA and NBA.
In spite of this, the vast majority of WNBA players continually make an unwavering priority to give back to the community; not because their absurd salaries forced them to or for tax benefits, but because they each have an indelible zeal for improving the world around them and because it’s the right thing to do.
If you’re thinking that I’m questioning the authenticity of some professional athletes in terms of their Foundations and personal focus on improving the community, well, you’d be correct. In fact, I very much question the genuineness of many athletes when they make an appearance at a Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters ,etc. and this comes from a first-hand perspective. I’ve worked for many years in both the non-profit world and the sports world and have been around a multitude of professional athletes and celebrities who unquestionably were forced to make an appearance somewhere or write a check with the sole purpose of enhancing their public image. And while, ultimately, the organizations still get funding and exposure, there simply is a different feeling and impact that is created when it comes from a sincere place. The fact remains, however, that we undoubtedly hear more about those events than any of the countless accomplishments in the community by WNBA athletes.
I, for one, think it’s about time we recognize, acknowledge, and honor what is being done in the community by WNBA players and the WNBA Cares program. WNBA Cares focuses on programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on promoting a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, breast health awareness, youth and family development, and education as well as team-sponsored community events. There are a countless number of players and team representatives that have volunteered their time and money for these special community events.
However, here are descriptions of several of the more notable non-profit organizations that have been developed by individual WNBA players. I encourage you to browse their Foundation’s website and get involved!
Kudos to the tireless efforts of these women.
Temeka Johnson, H.O.P.E. (Heaven Opens People’s Eyes)
Meek’s HOPE is active in the community in a number of ways and has made a key decision to help underprivileged children find hope and better their lives. She offers the Jewel Johnson Teacher Scholarship, in honor of her grandmother, to deserving students from Louisiana or attending Louisiana institutions. In addition, Meek’s HOPE has adopted schools to help with projects, mentoring, and fundraising. HOPE also sponsors area youth to receive personal hygiene makeovers for girls and boys, works with local schools and agencies to identify organizational needs, and hosts “A Very Meek Christmas” for local youth where HOPE and Temeka take them on a Christmas shopping spree.
Ketia Swanier – Ketia4Kidz
Ketia4Kidz provides support to the children of deployed and severely injured active duty military service members of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also provides enrichment activities and tutoring to children while their parent(s) are away in service.
Tamika Catchings – Catch the Stars
Tamika’s mission is to motivate at-risk youth in the Indianapolis area to achieve their dreams and goals by providing positive academic and sports related programs. Largely centered on academics, the foundation also focuses on sportsmanship, healthier lifestyles, mentoring, and basketball/fitness clinics.
Swin Cash – Cash for Kids
Swin developed the Cash for Kids program to assist youth agencies and schools both inside and outside of the classroom in the areas of Arts & Culture, Youth Development, and Athletics.
Candice Wiggins – The Candice Wiggins Foundation Fund
The Candice Wiggins Foundation Fund honors the legacy of Alan Wiggins in its dedication to growing awareness, dialogue and funds to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Ruth Riley – NothingButNets
Ruth is a major player in this movement. Nothing But Nets is a grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Ruth has also been awarded the WNBA Community Assist Award for her dedication to community outreach initiatives related to youth health and wellness - particularly in her work for Nothing But Nets.
Betty Lennox – The Lennox Foundation 22
Betty Lennox’s Foundation centers around supporting kids in all communities that battle with the horrors of neglect and abuse. The money raised by The Lennox Foundation 22 will assist different shelters and homes to enrich their programs and educational needs for their communities.
Tamika Raymond – Thames River Family Programs, NothingButNets
Tamika worked with the Thames River Family Programs (TRFP), a transitional home for women and their children. In addition to her work with TRFP, Tamika was a regular participant and avid supporter of WNBA Cares events and causes, including Nothing But Nets and several visits to local schools, youth organizations, and fan events during the year.
Dawn Staley – Dawn Staley Foundation
The foundation’s mission is to create a future of hope for at-risk youth by providing opportunities that help them realize their dreams and become productive and responsible citizens. The creation and support of educational and sports programs which challenge minds, build character, and help youth to develop to their fullest potential academically, socially and physically are the essence of the foundation.