NBA commissioner bullish on WNBA after women’s soccer success

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SUN VALLEY, Idaho — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver isn’t giving up on the WNBA.

Critics have called the money-losing women’s basketball league a failure, but Silver said he’s “doubling down” on it — and pointed to the success of the US women’s soccer team as a reason.

“I was welling up watching the women’s World Cup soccer game,” Silver said, saying he was thinking of his young daughter and how star player Megan Rapinoe and her US teammates are inspirational to girls.

“I think she’s great,” Silver said of Rapinoe, acknowledging her controversial politics.

The pink-haired professional player said earlier this month she wouldn’t visit the White House if invited, calling the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan “exclusionary.”

“My politics are no secret,” Silver said. “She explains why she spoke out against [President] Trump.”

Although women’s basketball has yet to draw the same level of interest as the soccer game, Silver is hopeful that new WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert can help pump up interest.

Silver also touched on the issue of equal pay, as both WNBA players and female pro-athletes make far less than their male counterparts. Without going into detail, Silver said that women’s soccer generates more revenue and interest than the men’s soccer league, and that the argument merits pay parity.

According to Nielsen, roughly 14.3 million US viewers tuned into the final match last weekend versus approximately 11.4 million for the 2018 Men’s World Cup Final, marking a 22 percent US viewership boost.

What’s more, total viewership including online streaming peaked at about 20 million, making it the most-watched soccer match on English-language television — men’s or women’s — in the US since the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final. That match drew 25.4 million viewers.

Before heading off to an event, Silver addressed a persistent rumor that is on the mind of every New York basketball fan: Will owner James Dolan sell the Knicks? The exec was slightly less outspoken with his response.

“I have no reason to believe he is going to sell the Knicks because it’s a public company and he said he’s not selling the Knicks,” he offered.

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