Last week on Saturday Night Live, a few prominent cast members and SNL’s host for the day, Idris Elba, performed a sketch called, “The Gold Diggers of the WNBA. ” The sketch centered around a few unfashionable guys in a club trying to become a “kept man” of WNBA players. There were a few decent jokes about the huge disparity in pay between WNBA and NBA players, but primarily the sketch coasted on stereotypes that WNBA players are butch, have deep voices, and are lesbians.
The previous “joke” of this sketch was that 90 percent of WNBA players are lesbians. And, for the most part, WNBA players weren’t laughing.
“I wasn’t really offended so much as I felt they called it in. They used really tired jokes and did them badly at that,” Imani McGee-Stafford, a center for the Atlanta Dream, told ThinkProgress.
“I found it offensive and frankly, idle — particularly because I’ve never seen anyone in that skit — or even on the SNL throw in a match,” Las Vegas Aces’ star A’ja Wilson, the 2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year, told ThinkProgress in an email. “You can’t make fun of something that you know nothing about or have never genuinely tried to support. It just blows my mind how nobody stands for racial or homophobic jokes when it comes to the Oscars, but when it comes to the WNBA all of a sudden it’s supposed to be amusing and a joke. ”
The Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, also shared her disapproval on Twitter.
Y’all crossed the line with this one. This ain’t it, sis. https://t.co/UMD8CGvz0d
— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) March 12, 2019
The skit featured Elba, Kenan Thompson, and Chris Redd as the men chasing the WNBA players. Leslie Jones and Cecily Strong both played with WNBA players, while Kate McKinnon played with the girl that leaves the club with Jones. Wilson was incredibly frustrated that some of the cast’s most prominent supporters of girls ’s rights were at the skit.
“I’m particularly disappointed in Leslie,” Wilson said, referring to the fact that throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics, Jones was a remarkably vocal social media supporter of the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team, which won the gold medal in PyeongChang. “For all she did around girls ’s hockey and championing female athletes in the Olympics, it would have been nice to see her, Kate and Cecily push back being used to perpetrate harmful stereotypes”
Amber Cox, the vice president of the Connecticut Sun, expressed similar frustrations on Twitter, calling the skit “tone deaf. ”
Disappointed in the @SNL women who engaged in the WNBA skit. Female comedians have been vocal about the fight for equality. Sad they were tone deaf re: female athletes at the exact same fight & absurd stereotypes. I’ll still watch & service. Hope they will do the same. #dobetter
— Amber Cox (@MoheganMaven) March 10, 2019
Cheryl Reeve, the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, also expressed disappointment with the skit. Reeve is one of the most outspoken supporters calling for the media to provide the WNBA with more coverage but she believed that this crossed a line.
“The SNL skit about the WNBA was a poor attempt at satire,” Reeve said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “Instead, it served to perpetuate the stereotypes that are used to hold women in athletics down. Unfortunately, the naysayers are once again fueled to keep the negative narrative around female athletes. ”
Many viewers also believed the skit was homophobic. McGee-Stafford agreed, stating that she’s sick of the constant speculation about the sexuality of women’s basketball players.
“Like, I honestly couldn’t care less if people think I’m gay or straight,” she said. “But like, damn, aren’t y’all sick of the subject matter? ”
Wilson sees this is an offshoot of how society focuses on the sexuality of all women, but added that when it comes to girls ’s basketball players, the speculation often comes from an area of fragility.
“I think there’s an obsession with the sexuality of women and it’so ridiculous, but it seems particularly with female athletes,” Wilson said. “It’s just like men need to get some justification for why we are better than them at sports. It may ’t just be that we are more talented. It’s only a very ancient way of considering the world and women who play sports. ”
Holly Rowe, a girls ’s basketball commentator for ESPN, pointed out another issue with the skit: It didn’t acknowledge the fact that thanks to how much the talent of WNBA players is appreciated overseas, most players actually live a wonderful lifestyle.
I LOVE SNL but this isn’t funny. Super sexist. Do your research @idriselba Our @WNBA players push Maserati, Tesla baby! They are business owners, owners. Best wishes for your new Luther & Netflix show Turn Up Charlie. I support everything you do. Be better to these women. https://t.co/ruTVlLbDXj
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) March 12, 2019
Wilson knows that many will study this criticism and think the WNBA players are just over-sensitive women who don’t know how to laugh at themselves. But that’s not true, she said. It’s simply that the skit missed the mark.
“We can take a joke better than anyone. It’s SNL and a lot of us laughed at some of the lines. We may even use the skit for a teaching point or lesson but it’s only an unfortunate commentary,” she said. “We can shine a bright light on the WNBA to spark more conversation and laughs. We own businesses, we’ve started foundations, we love our job and perform at the maximum level in the world but we continue to be bashed and it’s just annoying and childish. ”
In the end, players worried that the media must remember that it may be a force to help change narratives, not perpetuate them.
“You control the narrative, therefore once you choose to treat the WNBA as a joke or repeat the same tired [jokes], its not our fault. It’s yours,” McGee-Stafford stated.
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