By Jeffrey Newholm
WNBA president Lisa Borders unexpectedly resigned Wednesday, stunning a league still beaming from Seattle’s stirring championship and the US World Cup win. She took the position in 2016 and oversaw a very successful three years. She now takes a new role as the head of Time’s Up, a feminist workplace advocacy group. While Borders did a suitable job, her unannounced successor will have a difficult task handling players angst and a potential new CBA.
Successes and (a few) failures
Borders’ main strength during her tenure was a rebranding of the league. Or, rather, it was an initial branding as unapologetically progressive feminist. By contrast, the league was rather bland under predecessor Laurel Richie, with the only major news Brittney Griner’s fight and suspension. ESPN lead anchorwomen Rebecca Lobo voiced her pleasure of Border’s time:
Lisa Borders was a terrific president. Time’s Up is lucky to have her. https://t.co/L76xx30a2l
— Rebecca Lobo (@RebeccaLobo) October 2, 2018
Border’s second biggest contribution was the revamp of the playoff format, now favoring the top two teams. Minnesota and Los Angeles set a higher bar in 2016 and ’17 that many others rose to this year. This made for perhaps the league’s most competitive year, and certainly its most trending and watched. There were a few problems with Borders however. Her later rescinded 2016 decision to fine players for wearing Black Lives Matter shirts seemed incredibly tone-deaf. She also was criticized for siding too much with management and the NBA, especially regarding New York’s awful arena predicament. Finally, the praised “Take a seat, take a stand” feminist cause fundraiser seemed to me more of a PR gimmick than actual fulfilling campaign, with only select sales contributing.
While the Me Too movement has generated notable headlines and resignations, its broader impact to this point is questionable. That’s why Borders can be commended for attempting to take tangible action for a company very glad to have her:
We are thrilled to welcome Lisa Borders as our first-ever President and CEO! https://t.co/xc3HrMv4ee
— TIME'S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) October 2, 2018
But with greater success comes greater requests. Many players are speaking for better travel and pay. And not every finger can be pointed elsewhere as player share of league revenue is a huge WNBA exclusive issue. Borders helped throw in the ball in the frontcourt, but now her successor must make the league’s shot at relevance and financial stability.