The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) headed into their twentieth season this year. As the twelve teams that compose the WNBA started to play in 1997, it created a sports league that allowed the top women basketball players from all over the world to be able shine and show society their capabilities as athletes. The creation of WNBA was a major step that society has taken and since then the league has grown, but there is still much room for improvement.
The Liberty, New York’s women’s basketball team, which is owned by the Madison Square Garden Company, have had an impressive history. They have made four appearances in the WNBA finals and have received the title of being the Eastern Conference Champions three times. Recently, they just had three players who played for the franchise and were named the Top 20 WNBA players of all time as voted on by the league. This season, the team as of now has a total of eight wins and four losses, putting them in first place in the Eastern Conference.
I was fortunate enough to talk to the Liberty’s SVP of business and basketball, Kristin Bernert. She has been affiliated with the WNBA since 2002 and has previously worked for the League Office and the Los Angeles Sparks. Basketball is something that has been very special to Kristin, as she grew up as an athlete and played basketball in college. She explained that this sport has taught her lessons about teamwork and how to be the best possible teammate. She always knew that she wanted to be apart of the sport when she was older and originally she wanted to be a coach for a team. She soon learned that there were many ways to be involved with the sport. As SVP of business and basketball, Kristin’s responsibilities range anywhere from ticket sales to player trade. As a woman executive in the sports industry, she explained that she is not afraid to voice her opinion and that it is important for her to support women and minorities. Being successful in her opinion is about being driven, hardworking and caring.
The challenges that Kristin faces are finding footing for the WNBA in the sports world. Even though the WNBA is ahead of where the NBA was twenty years in, women’s basketball still trails behind the NBA and other male sports leagues. She explained how society has not fully caught up to the idea of a professional women’s sports league and it is taking a long time for this change to happen. She hopes that in the future she can help move the ball forward in society. One specific goal she wants to achieve is a higher salary for these women, because WNBA players do not make nearly as much money as NBA players do. To achieve this goal would be a major accomplishment.
Lastly, Kristin’s favorite part of her job is working with the people who are a part of the Liberty organization. She is honored to be able to work with players on the team because of what they stand for and how hard they work. For example, Tina Charles, a very talented athlete, founded an organization called Hopey’s Heart Foundation. She gives half of her WNBA salary to her organization and dedicates a lot of her time there. This is something that Kristin thinks is really special about the players on the team. Overall, the Liberty is a team that promotes women to follow their passions and it shows the world what they are capable of doing.