Westhem: Ogwumike’s coverage hints at gender disparity in sports

April 15, 2014, 12:23 a.m.

So I guess I don’t have to steal the John R. Wooden Award away from anyone as I promised I would, since Chiney Ogwumike did win National Player of the Year — as she rightly should have. And no one stole the first overall WNBA draft pick to the Connecticut Sun away from her either, so Chiney got the perfect ending to her collegiate basketball career and the perfect start to her professional career.

Although it was unclear whether Chiney would be picked first over Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, it was always expected that they would be the first and second picks — which did come to fruition. However, what many might not have been able to say with certainty was when or if Mikaela Ruef would be drafted. I found out in the middle of writing this column that Mikaela was chosen and pretty much got goose bumps from the amount of Stanford pride I felt.

To be able to say that I know three people in the WNBA next season (including Chiney’s older sister Nneka, who was picked first overall two seasons ago by the LA Sparks) is just so cool, for lack of a better word. But what is also cool is the coverage that the WNBA Draft now receives and the advancement of professional women’s sports over the past few years.

The WNBA Draft was televised on ESPN2 during primetime for the second straight year, even though the league is entering its 18th season. Although the WNBA will most likely not reach the notability or business model of the NBA, it’s at least encouraging to see that the WNBA Draft is treated just the same as the NBA Draft. The women have worked just as hard in their collegiate careers as the men and deserve the same kind of recognition, with all of the pomp and circumstance and primetime coverage that the men get.

Last year I took a class called Gender and Sports, in which I studied the ways in which funding for female athletics and the media’s coverage of female sports is far from equal to that of their male counterparts. Quantity does not necessarily equate to quality of coverage. So I was glad that when I Googled today “how to watch the WNBA Draft,” I discovered that I could watch it on an actual television and not have to stream it from ESPN’s website.

Because let’s be honest, I just wanted to see Chiney get picked first overall on the big screen at my house and not have to watch her on my computer. It’s bittersweet to think that I will no longer get to see her in cardinal and white, and that the next time I watch her play will not be courtside at Maples but on a television on the opposite side of the country from her.

I won’t have the privilege of being the beat writer assigned to cover her team and her games — though she will most certainly be featured in a column or two during her rookie season.

I actually got to meet one of the beat writers for the Connecticut Sun last weekend while in Nashville at the Final Four. He sought me out because he wanted to pick my brain about Chiney and what she’s like off the court. I told him that her personality was perfectly captured in the “N-E-R-D-S #nerdanthem” video that she starred in and wrote the lyrics for, and that the genuine and professional persona that she conveys to the media is representative of her maturity and not just a means of pleasing the media. It was fun to brag about the awesome person Chiney is off of the court.

And when he ended up writing a Dr. Seuss-esque poem in his column about NerdNation and Chiney’s fit with the Sun, I figured then and there that he could handle covering someone as unique and special on and off the court as Chiney Ogwumike.

Ashley Westhem fainted when Chiney was picked first by the Connecticut Sun. To wish her a speedy recovery and send her Gatorade for rehydration, contact her at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet her @ashwest16.

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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