WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert insists talks about the expansion won’t begin until next summer. If so, an all-black group of owners from Oakland, Calif., Would be the first in America to launch a major league franchise since its inception.
The African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) announced on Oct. 27 that at present all municipal barriers have been lifted, including unanimous approval from City Council, County Supervisory Board of Alameda and the stadium commission to have a WNBA team play at Oakland Arena. , once home of the NBA Golden State Warriors (1971-2019).
Several key people involved in the AASEG WNBA project were presented virtually to the media, including the MSR. Founder Ray Bobbitt told reporters, “A lot of us were born or raised in East Oakland, and a lot of us came into contact with sports and entertainment growing up.”
Lobbying for a professional women’s basketball team, he said, “is very, very exciting for us, and everyone involved in the project is very committed to it.”
Recently retired WNBA player Alana Beard leads the all-black women’s leadership group with natives of Oakland, lawyer Jade Smith-Williams, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and local entrepreneur Samantha Wise, among other notables.
“This is huge for the city of Oakland,” said Wise. “We have the support of the city, the support of the leadership, the support of the community. So it’s time for us to bring sport back to the city.
Although not originally from the city, Beard, born in the south, who now works and lives in Oakland, stressed, “I strongly believe in our ability to accomplish great things together. I am therefore enthusiastic about this partnership.
More importantly, the AASEG secured the necessary funding to start a sports franchise, Oakland Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kaplan noted when asked about it. Too often, money issues arise whenever a black individual or group becomes involved in team ownership, she added. “Occasionally [there] tend to be people asking inappropriate questions of black-led groups, ”said Kaplan, who has tried to bring the WNBA to Oakland since 2014.
Loop Capital, the largest black-owned financial organization in the United States, is one of the main backers of the Oakland WNBA Project, Kaplan reported. “I think it’s an incredible blend of talents and skills.”
“It’s an opportunity for black women to be in front,” added Smith-Williams.
When asked to talk about the historic possibility of an all-black female ownership group in the WNBA, Garza told MSR, “This is actually one of the reasons I agree with it. this project. Black women have played an important and incredible leadership role in change and change. This project is the leadership of black women.
“It aligns on almost every level in terms of my values and the things I prioritize and want to invest my time in,” Garza said.
The MSR questioned Commissioner Engelbert about the Oakland AASEG group during her August 31 visit to Minnesota. She noted that “committed owners” are among the many factors the league will consider if and when expansion cities are selected.
” We will talk about [expansion] more seriously, how many and types of cities, this time next year, ”Engelbert predicted.
Bobbitt told MSR, “I am in direct contact with Christy Hedgpath, the CEO of the WNBA. She helped us go through the process to find out exactly what the requirements will be.
“We weren’t necessarily waiting for the league’s expansion strategy per se,” he said. Nonetheless, AASEG wants “to be ready to execute immediately when available.” They were receptive.