- Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
The WNBA announced Monday it will introduce a new logo, a new basketball and new uniforms as part of its “Count It” campaign in celebration of its 25th anniversary season in 2021.
The league released photos of the new logo and ball on Monday but said details on the uniforms are still to come.
“We want to count all the accomplishments of the league, from a game perspective but also in culture and society,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert told ESPN of the “Count It” theme. “The reason we decided to use tallies in the logo was to get across the idea of, ‘Keep counting, because there is a lot more to come from the WNBA.’
“Hopefully we’re going to have a lot of fan engagement around all these elements, along with naming our 25 greatest players and 25 greatest moments. And our social justice council has continued to meet to keep doing important work in their communities.”
Social justice was a major focus of the WNBA last season in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida, when the league had a 22-game regular season with traditional playoffs, won by Seattle. The WNBA will return to its home markets for this season. Engelbert said the league hopes to announce its schedule in the next few weeks. Before the pandemic-shortened schedule last year, the WNBA planned to have a 36-game season.
“It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube, which is why it’s taking a little longer than usual,” Engelbert said of working through television and arena availability for this year’s schedule. “We’re tracking somewhere between 30 and 36 games. It’s also challenging because of the Olympic break, and we want to leave ourselves some room also if we have to reschedule any games because of COVID.”
Engelbert said whether fans will be allowed at WNBA games this season would be announced at a later date. Much of the testing and social-distancing protocol with players, coaches and officials that the league successfully used to get through last season will remain this season in the individual markets. That presents its own challenges, rather than having everyone in the same bubble.
“Obviously, our teams have already been talking to local health authorities,” Engelbert said. “Hopefully, some markets will allow fans, mostly in a reduced way at first. Maybe coming off the Olympic break, we’ll be in a different place as we get more a vaccinated population and less community spread of the virus.
“If you look at the NBA, it started with fans in six markets in December, and now they have fans in 17. We’re studying models and leveraging off the NBA experience.”
Englebert confirmed that the 2021 WNBA draft is on April 15 but said the league has not decided whether it will be virtual or have in-person attendees. The 2020 draft was all done virtually with video streaming.
Engelbert said the league would monitor how things were going in the women’s college basketball postseason regarding COVID-19 before making final decisions on the format of the draft.
The league also announced that the Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season competition that originally was scheduled to start in 2020 before the season was altered by the pandemic, will debut in 2021.
The Commissioner’s Cup is comprised of 10 designated regular-season games per team that will count toward standings that determine the top two to play for the Cup. The Commissioner’s Cup championship game is planned to take place after the Olympic break to jumpstart the return to the season.
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