WNBA commissioner: League focusing on scenarios to play

Sports
Cathy Engelbert

FILE – In this Sept. 29, 2019, file photo, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of basketball’s WNBA Finals in Washington. Engelbert said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Friday, May 15, 2020, that the league is focusing on about a half dozen scenarios to play this summer during the coronavirus pandemic. Engelbert did not go into detail about each scenario, but said that they are looking at playing in either one or a couple of sites at most instead of at every home arena. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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NEW YORK (AP) — WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is focusing on about a half dozen scenarios for the league to begin play this summer

Engelbert did not go into detail about each scenario, but told The Associated Press Friday that the league is looking at playing at one site, a few possibly at most instead of at every home arena.

“I feel really good about how things are now evolving and settling,” Engelbert said in a phone interview. “There’s still no date (to start the season). We have had a variety of conversations moving forward. None are without challenge.”

Despite the challenges, the commissioner is optimistic “”we can have a season this summer.”

What that season will look like is still unclear. The league has some added flexibility in it scheduling since it was originally taking off most of July and the early part of August for the 2020 Olympics. The postponement of the Tokyo Games gives the league more of a chance to have a full season.

“We haven’t taken off the table having a full season while other scenarios have a reduced amount of games,” the commissioner said. “A lot depends on the trajectory and restrictions in markets.”

Engelbert said many times during the nearly 30-minute interview that the health of the players, league and team staff was of the utmost importance.

The commissioner feels she knows a lot more about the logistical and operational challenges, as well the financial and medical hurdles, than she did when she postponed the start of the season at the beginning of April.

Engelbert said that testing for the virus is obviously a big component to having a season. She is encouraged by the increase in the number of tests and the availability of them over the last two months.

“Things are starting to open and starting to settle,” she said. “Medical experts are starting to feel better about testing and protocols, There’s still a lot of things to get through.”

She said many of the scenarios being reviewed have games being played without fans, but said if that happens, the league would be working with its broadcast partners to help expand the fan experience.

Engelbert said while the WNBA is in constant contact with the NBA and shares many resources including medical experts, it was unlikely that the two leagues would play in the same city and venues.

“I think it might behoove us to have our own sites certainly,” she said. “From the NBA or other professional sports. Many of the leagues are looking at the same cities.”

The commissioner said that the league would start paying its players on June 1 — the date they were scheduled to start getting paid for the season. But there are still ongoing talks between the union and the league.

The salary talks with the union include how the pay will work, roster size and salary cap that teams will have. The commissioner expects to have more details worked out before the first check is cut. Most teams have already cut down their rosters to 15 players with a couple still at 16.

It’s very possible the teams could have to get down to 12 players to fit under the cap by June 1, which means some could get cut without ever being in training camp.

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