ESPN Is Adding the WNBA to Its Fantasy Roster. It’s About Time.

It will be the first full-scale, season-long fantasy game dedicated to a major women's sport

Candace Parker of the Chicago Sky looks to pass around Brianna Turner of the Phoenix Mercury during the 2021 WNBA Finals
Candace Parker of the Chicago Sky looks to pass around Brianna Turner of the Phoenix Mercury during the 2021 WNBA Finals.
Christian Petersen/Getty

In a move that likely should have been made before but nonetheless deserves some positive recognition, ESPN will be launching its first-ever full-season fantasy sports option for a major women’s sport. 

Starting in April ahead of the 2022 WNBA season tipping off in early May, ESPN Fantasy Women’s Basketball will offer fans “a full-scale fantasy game with customizable settings for the number of teams per league, scoring formats, player rosters, and public and private league options.” Fantasy Women’s Basketball ESPN+ Exclusive Leagues will also be available for ESPN+ subscribers. “Like other industry-leading ESPN Fantasy games, ESPN Fantasy Women’s Basketball will be supported with analytical tools and editorial insights to help fans with their drafts, manage rosters, make trades, and more,” per ESPN.

As a partner of both the NBA, debatably the most progressive league in American pro sports, and ESPN, the WNBA makes sense as the first women’s league to dip its toe into the multi-billion dollar business of fantasy sports. The timing of the move also makes sense as Disney-owned networks (including ESPN) will broadcast 25 regular-season games during the upcoming WNBA season with a record-tying nine of them airing on ABC. Long popular with the gambling community, the WNBA now has a shot to broaden its appeal to an even wider fan base: degenerate fantasy sports players.

“Groups of friends and colleagues often turn draft night into a social event and millions have come to rely on their fantasy leagues as a way to stay in touch. Now, WNBA fans get to experience that,” Axios writes. “Managing a fantasy roster for a full season increases awareness of — and interest in — live games, which ESPN and the WNBA hope ultimately leads to more viewership and engagement.”

In a somewhat related story, ESPN has signed trailblazing female NBA analyst Doris Burke to a multi-year extension. The Curt Gowdy Media Award-winning reporter will continue to work games throughout the regular season and playoffs on ABC and the Worldwide Leader.

ESPN also announced it will launch a massive initiative in June to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding.

Fifty/50 is a significant initiative for The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates; the breadth of content is a reflection of the progress that has occurred over the last 50 years and how much more is still to be done,” said Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution President of Networks Debra OConnell. “We are proud of the joint collaboration across our networks to bring to life so many remarkable stories about the women who have broken countless barriers.”

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