WNBA putting wrong butts in seats

Tim Paluch

When Hugh Hefner sees something he wants, he goes out and gets it. He’s the epitome of everything that is great about being a wealthy American – rich, old white guy, seven or eight blond girlfriends, an unrelenting dependence on Viagra, a house bigger than Rhode Island, and a Playboy pornography empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Hef and Playboy always seem to find a way to convince “fifteen minute” pop culture icons to pose nude for the magazine. We’ve had Baywatch actresses, Survivor celebrities, washed-up pop stars and now, the WNBA.

Last week, Playboy.com held an online contest, “Sexiest Babes of the WNBA,” inviting visitors to vote for the sexiest of 10 WNBA players and coaches. The winner would be invited to appear in their birthday suit in a later publication.

Believe it or not, despite the fact that I am so obviously a male (making anything combining nude and female instantly appealing), I can think of a few reasons why this isn’t such a great idea.

First off, being quite blunt about it, there aren’t many Anna Kournakova-type athletes in the WNBA, and when I say athlete in this case, I mean “would look good naked.”

When I think of the WNBA, I think of hard-working athletes (I actually mean athletes this time) who fail to get the recognition they deserve in the male-dominated sports market.

Which takes me to reason two why the WNBA should not have silently endorsed this contest. While never actually endorsing the contest, league officials never countered this blatant promotion of pornography (Even photos on the Playboy Web site were “courtesy of the WNBA.”)

The WNBA claims its players are role models for young girls, and are actively involved with community programs for teenage girl basketball players.

That means there are thousands (I doubt there are millions) of teenage girls who enjoy basketball but can’t find role models in the ego-centric NBA, looking to the WNBA for hard-working independent women.

And now, those role models are giving interviews describing how “honored” they are to be chosen for the porn contest.

Phoenix Mercury’s Lisa Harrison even told the Arizona Republic she would go ahead and pose for the magazine if she won.

“I need the publicity. I need the money,” she said.

I’ve never been a big fan of the WNBA; I find it boring as hell to watch. After all, no one dunks, no-look passes happen about once a month, and every basket is either a weak lay-up or a 15-foot jump shot. I did, however, look upon the WNBA with a lot of respect.

It is a feminist sports league showcasing strong-willed female athletes in a male-dominated business. Young girls aspire to be like these women, and while I’m not one to go around calling athletes “role models,” I’ve always made an exception for the WNBA.

This gimmick may put butts in the seats, as some WNBA stars have said, but those butts aren’t real fans. They will be middle-aged porn freaks hoping to catch a glimpse of Sheryl Swoopes getting into a cat fight, or a Brandi Chastain-like victory celebration.

It’s hard to take the WNBA seriously anymore when its stars are taking it off for a couple bucks.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Orland Park, Ill. He is opinion editor of the Daily and the starting power forward for the Detroit Shock.