WNBA struggles for ratings, fans, attention and clout

The 2013 WNBA Finals features two of the best players in the league in the Dream's Angel McCoughtry (l) and the Lynx's Seimone Augustus (r).

The 2013 WNBA Finals features two of the best players in the league: The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry (l) and the Lynx’s Seimone Augustus (r).

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The finals for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) began Sunday night and continues tonight on ESPN2 for a best of five series. This year’s WNBA Finals features two teams that have gone the distance multiple times over the past few seasons in exciting games. The familiarity of the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream among WNBA fans, barring any distraction, should generate more interest than previous playoff games. This rematch of the 2011 WNBA Finals has the intrigue of two teams with something to prove because the Lynx lost year’s championship and the Dream lost in 2011.

The inaugural WNBA season featured Sheryl Swoopes (l), Rebecca Lobo (c), and Lisa Leslie (r) who emerged as stars after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

The inaugural WNBA season featured Sheryl Swoopes (l), Rebecca Lobo (c), and Lisa Leslie (r) who emerged as stars after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

But good ratings, fan interest and clout are not guaranteed for the WNBA Finals. The WNBA has struggled to grow beyond a niche sport in America despite the international appeal of women’s basketball. America’s female Team USA basketball exploded on the national landscape with a dominating performance in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The excellence that team displayed, along with the charisma of such stars as Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo and countless others helped create the momentum to start the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1996 and the WNBA in 1997. By 2000, the ABL folded and of the combination of the two leagues’ best players helped the WNBA continue to grow. The WNBA was considered unique because it was the only women’s basketball league to have the backing of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Early WNBA franchises had an NBA team equivalent. However, the WNBA has since grown to have several individually-owned teams.

The WNBA hopes the sport can continue to grow with the influx of notable college stars like this past season's rookie class featuring Brittany Griner (l), Skylar Diggins (c), and 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Della Donne (r).

The WNBA hopes the sport can continue to grow with the influx of notable college stars like this past season’s rookie class featuring Brittany Griner (l), Skylar Diggins (c), and 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Della Donne (r).

The WNBA has players that have continued to grow their popularity that began in college. But the league faces numerous challenges, starting with the low salaries paid to the players. WNBA salaries range from $37,950 per year for players in their first three years, to the maximum amount of $107,000 per year for players with more than six years’ experience. The brevity of the WNBA season, roughly 5 months, gives players opportunities to improve their game and grow their brand by playing in international leagues. Of the many players who take advantage of this opportunity, the most well-known is 2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker who has played since 2009 for a professional team in Russia. These extra chances to earn are sometimes necessary since most WNBA players do not have large endorsement deals or alternative revenue streams from cross-branding  ventures.

Women’s basketball has been dominant in the World Games and Olympics since the 1990’s and women’s college basketball has continuously generated stars that eventually graduate to the WNBA. However, these developments have not translated into continuous popularity growth for the WNBA. This year’s finals features a Minnesota Lynx team that has made the finals in three consecutive years. Their opponents, the Atlanta Dream, have made it to the finals for the third time in the past four years, which is significant for a franchise that began in 2008.

Angel McCoughtry (l) and Maya Moore (r) were summertime teammates for the 2012 Olympics, now they're adversaries in the 2013 WNBA Finals

Angel McCoughtry (l) and Maya Moore (r) were summertime teammates for the 2012 Olympics, now they’re adversaries in the 2013 WNBA Finals

The highlights of this 2011 Finals rematch are expected to be given by the stars of both teams that recently led Team USA to another gold medal in the Olympics. Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore are both former Women’s College Basketball Players of the Year. Augustus, Moore, and the Dream’s star Angel McCoughtry have won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award (in 06’, ’11, and 09’, respectively) and Augustus was 2011 WNBA MVP. It will be interesting to see if the Dream can reverse their fortunes from 2011 and capture the franchise’s first title or if the Lynx will rebound from last year’s Finals loss and regain status as the WNBA’s best team.

Serena and Venus Williams are two of the most accomplished female athletes of all time and most marketable as well.

Serena and Venus Williams are two of the most accomplished female athletes of all time and most marketable as well.

Like most women’s sports, the WNBA is aiming for excellence among the players to translate into increased interest in the game. Most women’s sports realize that it takes more than outstanding play to spark the kind of interest that generates large monetary rewards such as more advertisements, endorsements and branding opportunities that will increase revenues for the players and the franchises. Few female athletes have become as marketable or successful as the Williams sisters, who have been able to translate their on-court success to arenas outside of their sport.

The WNBA would be wise to implement many of the cross-branding measures that the Williams sisters continue to use. This would require a change in mindset, approach and an overhaul of the WNBA’s business model. The early era of the WNBA benefited from the players having cameo appearances in movies and television. TV Sitcom Martin and sports movie “Love And Basketball” were great chances for women’s basketball to be portrayed favorably in mainstream media. If aggressive actions are not taken to address the way the WNBA product is delivered, the game could continue to struggle for ratings, fans, attention and clout, despite the excellence of the product itself..-OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant.

Dynamic duo debuts SpiritSisters TV, aimed at empowerment

(L-R) Selena Covington and Shy Brown, co-hosts of SpiritSisters TV Show.

(L-R) Selena Covington and Shy Brown, co-hosts of SpiritSisters TV Show.

By Carmen Glover

It is not unusual for professionals to feel passionate about making a difference but fail to act in order to effect the very change they desire. But for a dynamic duo of African-American females, inaction is a concept that has no place in their active lives. For them, follow-through is a necessity and quantifiable results are the building blocks of success. Longtime friends Selena Covington and Shy Brown recently decided to merge their diverse skills and shared interest in spiritual empowerment. From that union they created SpiritSisters Television Show, which will launch on October 13, 2013 on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) at 7:30 PM. The show will air on the second Sunday of each month for thirty minutes and will address romance, spirituality, health, family and finances. The show can also be viewed online.

The idea for the show developed from a commitment by the co-hosts to provide quality advice and elicit meaningful discussion. “I had a group called Karma Circle. We had an idea that we wanted to have a spiritual advice show,” said Covington, a University of Florida graduate with a background in media and wellness. The group, which she started in 2009, focused on providing advice to women and encouraging meditation. As the group grew, the participants experienced positive changes in their lives, which in turn fueled Covington to explore broader avenues to reach her target population.

Partnering with Brown, who is a licensed therapist specializing in additions and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), to devise the concept for the show, was a natural progression because the partnership came from a place of trust. Brown explained that mutual interest and friendship were central factors in their decision to create the show. “Building on the chemistry that we have, we call ourselves sisters,” she explained, adding that they are committed to “spiritual growth.” But the duo is emphatic that the show will not promote religion. “Spirituality has to do with a divine connection with a true spiritual essence,” said Covington. “It is not geared to one particular religion.” Rather, said Brown, the show will focus on the “spiritual connection as it is defined by each individual.”

SpiritSisters TV Show’s demographic is adults from age 18 and up and will feature an interactive social media style. “We prefer that people email us and we will respond on the show,” said Covington, who explained that because the show is not live, having listeners email their questions ahead of time allows the hosts to answer questions in detail while providing a discussion theme for the next month’s show.“ I would hope that people can pull something from each question to help them in their spiritual life and at the end of each show we will have an inspirational thought for people to have something to look forward to from month to month,” Covington said of the show’s overarching aim. “Overall, our expectation is the education and awareness of the viewer so that people are aware of the spiritual mind/body connection,” Brown said, explaining that the format is ideal “so that it does not confuse” their audience.

As an indication of the ladies’ profound interest in reaching their audience and providing a vital resource, they are financing the venture on their own, although they hope to attract sponsors and advertisers in the future. Because the co-hosts feel that the need for their show is great, self-financing is considered to be an important investment in order to reach their demographic and provide a well-needed service that they hope will inspire others. The co-hosts expressed interest in expanding the show’s brand and scope over time. “Right now social media is everything,” Covington stated in explaining the media strategy that will undergird their outreach efforts. But they will not rule out including other methods to engage their viewers. “We are definitely trying to touch people by social media and we are hoping that people would invite us to speak,” Brown said, regarding being receptive to public speaking engagements.

The co-hosts are hoping that viewers will utilize the show as an interactive, engaging medium to share ideas, learn new techniques and expand their perspectives in a supportive environment. Viewers are invited to tune in on Sunday, October 13 at 7:30 PM to MNN, or at http://www.mnn.org, for the premiere episode of the show and to share ideas and feedback via twitter https://twitter.com/TVSpiritSisters, Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/SpiritSistersTV.-OnPointPress.net

CARICOM, UWI Cave Hill set to promote regional trade

Barbados, WI,October 6, 2013: Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) will host a day-long seminar entitled: “Pathways for Trade and development” on Monday, October 21st, 2013. The seminar is designed to discuss the latest policy research from the Shridath Ramphal Centre (SRC) on trade and development issues from a Caribbean perspective.

The seminar will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of West Indies and marks the welcoming to campus of the 10th cohort of the Masters in International Trade Policy (MITP) program at the SRC. This internationally-recognized program has more than 175 graduates working on trade and development issues across the Caribbean and in offices around the world.

The seminar has five themes which will be discussed among panelists. The first two panels that will look at new research on effective human capital development strategies, the benefits of intra-regional migration of tertiary-educated persons, regional trade in energy cooperation and prospects for dynamic growth through a focus on the creative industries.  These issues will be examined in the context of a practical way forward from the financial crisis.

After lunch, session three will delve into the debate over strategies to fully engage the region in the economic development.  Food security and international trade are key policy issues for individual countries and the region will be examined.  Session four will tackle the implications for Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

The seminar will conclude with a practical look at effective investment strategies for the region and priorities in the implementation of CARICOM’s aid-for-trade strategy. The presentations will commence at 8:30 am in the CARICOM Research Building, University of the West Indies, under the auspices of the Shridath Ramphal Centre.

If you are interested in attending the seminar, please confirm by October 9, 2013 by calling 417-4807/6 or emailing sabrina.hoyte@cavehill.uwi.edu or clauzel.forde@cavehill.uwi.edu. Space is limited.

CARICOM seminar set to promote regional trade

Bridgetown, Barbados, October 6, 2013: Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) will host a day-long seminar entitled: “Pathways for Trade and development” on Monday, October 21st, 2013. The seminar is designed to discuss the latest policy research from the Shridath Ramphal Centre (SRC) on trade and development issues from a Caribbean perspective.

The seminar will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of West Indies and marks the welcoming to campus of the 10th cohort of the Masters in International Trade Policy (MITP) program at the SRC. This internationally-recognized program has more than 175 graduates working on trade and development issues across the Caribbean and in offices around the world.

The seminar has five themes which will be discussed among panelists. The first two panels that will look at new research on effective human capital development strategies, the benefits of intra-regional migration of tertiary-educated persons, regional trade in energy cooperation and prospects for dynamic growth through a focus on the creative industries.  These issues will be examined in the context of a practical way forward from the financial crisis.

After lunch, session three will delve into the debate over strategies to fully engage the region in the economic development.  Food security and international trade are key policy issues for individual countries and the region will be examined.  Session four will tackle the implications for Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

The seminar will conclude with a practical look at effective investment strategies for the region and priorities in the implementation of CARICOM’s aid-for-trade strategy. The presentations will commence at 8:30 am in the CARICOM Research Building, University of the West Indies, under the auspices of the Shridath Ramphal Centre.

If you are interested in attending the seminar, please confirm by October 9, 2013 by calling 417-4807/6 or emailing sabrina.hoyte@cavehill.uwi.edu or clauzel.forde@cavehill.uwi.edu. Space is limited.

Terrence J salutes his mother in inspirational book

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By Carmen Glover

Former BET co-host of 106 and Park, actor and current E! News co-host Terrence J credits his mother’s example, guidance and counsel for providing the fundamentals of his success. In a beautiful ode to his mother’s love, support and guidance, Terrence J authored The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom: The Lessons That Made My Life Rich, a book that lovingly explores Terrance J’s life and how closely his successes are aligned with the choices his mother made in hers.

The book describes the circumstances surrounding his mother, Lisa, becoming pregnant at age 17 and her decision to not only have her son but devote her life to ensuring his overall success. It details her goals for her life and how she decided to put her son’s well-being first in all aspects of her life, including her decision to choose a life partner. Along the way, Terrance J shares the life lessons his mother taught him about becoming a man, pursuing his dreams, embracing education, ignoring obstacles, choosing friends wisely and sharing his gifts with others through mentoring.

Told in a very conversational tone, the book intersperses Terrence J’s recollections with his mother’s accounts of what motivated her to make the decisions she made and how determined she was to ensure that she led an exemplary life for her son. An interesting and compelling feature of the book is the nuggets of wisdom shared by other public figures who reflect on the impact their mothers had on their lives. Among the notables who share vignettes from their relationships with their mothers are Kevin Liles, former president of Def Jam Records, singer Trey Songz, rappers T.I and Ludacris, comedians/actors Kevin Hart and Gary Owen.

Terrence J’s book shares the many ways in which the values that his mother instilled in him shaped his viewpoints and his core system of operation. But The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom is also profound and illuminating in honing in on the message of friendships and relationships as well as the theme that no one is an island. It shines a light on an important essence of human relationships: the fact that truly successful people develop the art of nurturing relationships, which then mushrooms into meaningful bonds that can make the difference when you least expect it. The book is a great read for everyone who wants to learn the importance of having a central core as well as understanding the value of being true to yourself and your dreams.—OnPointPress.net

MLB changes playoff format, aims for renewed interest

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Major League Baseball hopes the additional playoff team added in each league will spark greater interest in postseason play this season. MLB hopes intrigue drastically increases from the 2012 World Series, which was easily the lowest rated series over the past thirty years.

World Series ratings since 1984.

World Series ratings since 1984.

Tuesday and Wednesday night will be a one game elimination playoff game between the two Wildcard teams from the NL and AL respectively. The one-and-done format can increase excitement for that game for casual viewers. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, are among the larrgest national fanbases that will have a tteam represented in the 2013 playoffs. Thursday will be the beginning of the divisional series where teams move to the next round by winning the best 3 out of 5 games.

Alex Rodriguez continues to fight his appeal of a 211 game suspension imposed by Bud Selig.

Alex Rodriguez continues to fight his appeal of a 211 game suspension imposed by Bud Selig.

There are some obstacles for the MLB’s hopes for increased interest in this year’s playoffs despite the change in format. The most marketable team in baseball, the New York Yankees, are noticeably absent and there are few individual stars that are big draws in the game of baseball today. Alex Rodriguez’s appeal of a 211 game suspension for PED use and other alllegations also threatans to take away attention from the MLB playoffs. The greatest challenge to the MLB playoffs however, is the exceptional interest in college and professional football in this country.

The change in format for the playoffs was designed to create a momentum of intrigue in baseball as it enters the postseason.The extra playoff spot is expected to give more teams an opportunity to make the playoffs, which would hopefully bring more interest in more teams for a longer period of time. The challenge for MLB is the lack of star power in their sport and the enormous popularity of competing sports, make the likelihood that interest will grow exponentially minute. It is unlikely the ratings for the World Series this season will be worse than 2012 but MLB is hoping for more than modest growth in interest in this year’s playoffs.-Onpointpress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant.

US Attorney General Eric Holder takes on North Carolina’s discriminatory voting rights law

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

By Carmen Glover

When the Supreme Court struck down the anti-discrimination portion of the Voting Rights Act this past August, it emboldened many states in the south. African- Americans, other minorities and the poor suffered. Before the ink was completely dry on the Supreme Court’s ruling, southern states implemented restrictive voting laws that were designed to disenfranchise African- Americans and the poor. The very groups that endured injustice, beatings, racism, imprisonment and indignities in the long quest to have their rights to vote respected were again disenfranchised. But on Monday, September 30, while all eyes were fixed on Capitol Hill, waiting for renegade Republicans to put the American people first and avoid shutting down the government, another official was working very hard to restore the voting rights of African- Americans, minorities and the poor.

In a purposeful press conference, devoid of theatrics but steeped in the law and justice, Attorney General Eric Holder made it clear that he will not stand by idly while African-Americans, minorities and the poor who reside in North Carolina are deprived of their God-given rights to vote. “The state legislature took extremely aggressive steps to curtail the rights of African-Americans,” Holder said. “This is an intentional step to break a system that was working. It defies common sense. Every level of the Justice Department will never hesitate to do all that we must do to protect the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of all Americans.”

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Fifty years ago, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington for “Jobs and Freedom.” Then, like now, the poor and African-Americans felt disenfranchised. Then, like now, they yearned to be respected; they wanted to benefit from the promises inherent in America’s Declaration of Independence. Utilizing flowery oratory, King spoke eloquently about having a dream, rousing the masses who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to plead their case for equal rights. As attorney Drew Hansen meticulously details in his powerful book, “The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., And The Speech That Inspired A Nation,” King was murdered while he was still working diligently to ensure that African-Americans were given their civil rights, including the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law after King’s death.

It is ironic that as a result of King’s advocacy all those years ago, some changes have occurred to the extent that this county has its first African-American US Attorney General. And in the spirit of Dr King, who once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and “We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do what is right,” Holder did not mince his words when he announced his plans to take the fight directly to North Carolina by challenging an unjust law that unfairly targets African-Americans and the poor. “The Justice Department intends to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to the participation in the political process on account of race,” he said of the discriminatory North Carolina voting law.

Holder outlined his plan to challenge four components of the questionable law: the state’s decision to reduce early voting opportunities, eliminate same day registration during early voting, restrict access to provisional ballots and ensure strict reliance on Government issued identifications while ignoring other valid forms of identification.

North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who signed the state’s restrictive voting rights law in August, was swift in denouncing Holder’s announcement to protect the voting rights of African-Americans and the poor in that state. “I believe the Federal government action is an overreach and without merit,” he said, barely containing his anger. “I believe that North Carolina is in the mainstream of this issue and it’s the Justice Department that’s working within the fringes.”

For so long, some people have argued that America is now “post racial.” They have postulated that equal rights abound and that Dr King’s dream has been realized. While it is clear that significant progress has been made with some issues, North Carolina’s current restrictive voting rights law is indicative of fact that as far as the right to vote is concerned, things have not changed much and vigilance is needed to ensure continued oversight. With Holder on the case, meaningful results can be expected. -OnPointPress.net