Directly beneath the number on a WNBA player’s jersey is their surname. It would be wise of three-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala to note that.
Iguodala, who is with the Miami Heat in the NBA bubble near Orlando, Florida, tuned in Tuesday night to see the Washington Mystics defeat the Connecticut Sun. But when he turned to Twitter to give a shoutout to an impressive player, he failed to name Aerial Powers and instead used only her jersey number.
Powers, whose Mystics are the reigning champions, took issue with it and started a terse back-and-forth. Iguodala’s lack of identification — and thereby lack of respect in many’s eyes — comes at a time when the WNBA has dedicated its season to, literally, “Say Her Name.” The movement is to raise awareness of Black women who are victims of police brutality since they are so often left out of the conversation.
And while players are shining the spotlight on those women, they themselves have been called the wrong names on broadcasts. Which is what makes Powers’ takedown of Iguodala more salient.
Iguodala doesn’t say Powers, calls out her ‘manners’
Powers scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the 2019 WNBA Finals rematch. She hit 4 of 6 from deep and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Iguodala was impressed.
But instead of using her name in a tweet to his more than 1.3 million followers, he simply said “Number 23.”
In return, Powers tweeted a few hours later to “put some respect on my name.”
The next morning Iguodala took to Twitter again with a sub-tweet that ignited the issue.
“No manners,” he wrote, seemingly making sure Powers knew her place in this situation.
Powers, an avid gamer involved in the “NBA2K” scene, answered saying she deals with disrespect daily and asked if it would have been the same scenario if she were a male player.
She referenced a 2016 TMZ article in which the mother of Iguodala’s children said he said he didn’t want his daughter playing basketball because she might “turn into a lesbian.” Iguodala said at a book signing a year ago it was taken out of context, per San Francisco Weekly.
Powers: ‘The WNBA is over being marginalized’
Powers further explained why Iguodala’s lack of identification when it came to complimenting her game meant in the bigger picture. She made the statement to “No. 28” on Instagram with a video noting the lack of coverage for women’s sports.
“Women across the world are fighting for equality in every facet of the word. The WNBA is over being marginalized. Women are over being marginalized.
“The NBA players are our brothers. They, more than anybody, know our fight and struggle to have the same recognition, visibility and opportunity as they do. So when you say a statement about our gameplay that was meant as a compliment but don’t include the persons name, it takes away credibility from them and their hard work on the court and makes it seem “less than.” The same humans under my pics and tweets with bad remarks will grow up to think this same way. This is the problem.
“We already have enough #28s in the world that think just because I was given a “compliment” I should be grateful. Women are done having grace, giving deference, feeling validated just because a man said so. So to all you #28s we, women, are done with taking the crumbs! Give us our meals and make room at the table! Let this documentary do the rest of the talking.”
Powers urged people to support the WNBA when the Mystics play the championship favorite Seattle Storm at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Names have been a problem during opening week
Iguodala’s “number 23” tweet also comes amid issues on national broadcasts in the first five days of the shortened season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Some mistakes are a slip of the tongue after months on hiatus, such as calling the Dallas Wings the Mavericks after talking about Satou Sabally working with Dirk Nowitzki.
Others are more egregious. Play-by-play announcers and analysts have called a large number of players incorrect names. The Chicago Sky’s Kahleah Copper was continuously called “Cooper” both on-air and in a graphic on Tuesday night. And Powers was included in the name misidentifications when she was called “Powell” during a play.
It’s fair that the issue of calling players by their name was already at the forefront of players’ and fans’ minds when Iguodala tweeted. The league is experiencing increased viewership already this season and there are thousands of new fans tuning in to see games. This matters more than ever.
Why should we care if Iguodala didn’t name her?
All Iguodala had to do was search “Mystics No. 23” to see who it was, and use her name in the tweet. Finding her on Twitter is even better. Give these women that shoutout if you think their game is so great, which clearly he does.
The WNBA has a marketing problem — commissioner Cathy Engelbert said it herself in February — and is working to rectify that. It partnered with ESPN to send 160 orange logo sweatshirts to the bubble for opening weekend. And those sweatshirts became the No. 1 selling item on Fanatics. That’s largely because young fans saw their idols wearing it. Fandom grew.
But the league also has an issue with how it is portrayed by media and how NBA players interact with it. Male players in general respect and like watching the women, players have said, but not everyone is as vocal as Kobe Bryant was about it. And that matters.
Basketball fans should know Aerial Powers, the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft who played a key role off the bench for the Mystics championship. But the fact is, fans don’t. And simply naming her in that tweet would be a step toward helping basketball fans watch more great basketball and know more great basketball players.
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