MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a town hungry for a winning sports team, we have one. The Minnesota Lynx have clinched the top record in their WNBA division, and are one game away from clinching the best record in the league, and home court advantage in the playoffs.

Yet, the media and community excitement level doesn’t seem to be there. Why do women’s sports and the Lynx have such a tough time competing?

“We’re trying to do our best to be a fan base like the Twins and the Vikings,” said longtime Lynx star Seimone Augustus. “Winning has definitely helped us.”

Still, at the Minnesota Lynx shoot-around and media availability Thursday, there were two print reporters and one TV reporter: me.

“People are busy, It’s the economy, there’s a lot of sports. All we can focus on is having fun and playing hard,” said Minnesota-native and former Gopher phenom Lindsay Whalen.

Despite some peaks of fan interest with women’s sports, like during the World Cup or the Olympics, in general, women’s sports have a tough time gaining traction, according to Nicole La Voi, Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

“Even when the men are losing they’ll get front page above the fold, while female athletes are relegated to the hinterlands of the sports section or not covered at all,” said La Voi. “WCCO excluded, who’s done a fairly good job of covering the Lynx? There’s essentially been a local media blackout of covering the Lynx.”

“Is it sexism?” asked WCCO reporter Jason DeRusha.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Augustus.

She said she’s heard the attitude from men that “girls can’t play,” adding, “as long as we prove the men wrong, we’ll be alright.”

“Strength, power, speed, aggression are characteristics we uphold in athletics — and most closely align with men’s professional sports,” said La Voi.

It’s not like the Lynx aren’t getting some traction from fans. Announced attendance is up for the sixth consecutive season, according to the team. The average is close to 8,400 people, which is fifth in the league, up from 7,622 last year.

A bigger deal for the team, the number of actual people in the building is up over 60 percent from last season, according to the Lynx.

“Our walk-up sales (day of game) are up over 250 percent from last year,” said public relations manager Aaron Seehusen. “We’ve already sold more new season tickets for next year than we did for all of this year. We actually just had a guy yesterday buy 54 new season tickets for next year.”

But compared to most major men’s sports, 8,400 fans doesn’t seem like a groundswell of support.

“If you look at fan attendance in NBA in years 12 or 13, it was much lower than 7,000 or 8,000 fans,” said La Voi.

Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers of 1961 drew an average of 5,045 fans. The New York Knicks drew an average of 8,035. Both of those cities are much larger than Minneapolis.

For Augustus and Whalen, the key is getting a skeptical group of sports fans to actually experience the product.

“It’s like how you gonna get ’em here? What’s gonna entice them to get here. We talk about the spandex like overseas, like the Australians wear, whatever it’s gonna take,” said Augustus.

Jason DeRusha

Comments (27)
  1. You Need A Fan Base says:

    Good Question.
    Why don’t you ask the Ligerie Football League how they got a huge fan base in such a short time?

    1. You need a life says:

      Because pigs need something to watch that they dpn’t have to use their brain to understand?

  2. The Truth says:

    people want excitement like dunks in basketball or hard hits in football. The only time any women sports are relevant is during the Olympics or this past soccer world cup. Otherwise nobody cares. It’s too slow moving. Sorry, that’s the truth.

    1. No truth to be told. says:

      From what I remember from last season in football, the games run about 2.5-3 hours. Now, let’s do the calculation here: Each quarter is 15 min, so 1 hour total. Why are there up to two hours of no play time? Wait, it’s because the one hour of play isn’t as exciting as the two hours that’s used for time-outs, replays, referee calls, etc. And to be honest, waiting for the referees to make a call on a play is more thrilling than the majority of plays in the NFL.

      There isn’t a truth to this phenomenon. The NFL, NBA, NHL, etc are all larger leagues with a higher popularity among American sports. Women’s sports just emerged not too long ago. Give them time. We should be spending our money on a new Lynx arena. Not the Vikes.

      1. Kaylie says:

        I’m studying the history of women’s basketball. To be factual; women started playing basketball only ONE year after it was invented. The reason why women aren’t watched as much is because like it says in the video: strength, speed and aggression is what our brains gear to.

  3. Diane says:

    Since the Lynx are averaging over 8,000 fans per game…people DO care. It’s only people that don’t know much about sports that only care about the dunks, the home runs, the hard hits and the fights. There is a lot more to sports than just those characteristics. What’s different that suddenly makes women’s sports “relevant” during the Olympics or during the World Cup?

  4. Erica M says:

    Part of the problem is the media doesn’t give them equal time and/or equal footing, so there’s a real lack of awareness. Women “aren’t relevant” because the people in charge of who/what the public sees as relevant make that decision for them.

    1. "it's a conspiracy!" says:

      The media would give them equal time and equal footing if people cared, you’ve got it backwards.

      1. Erica M says:

        No, you missed my point. It’s about who has the power to make decisions about what you see and how their inherent biases influence what you think. It’s a problem with the media generally.

        1. Mr D says:

          So if they show it, people will watch. Keep dreaming.

  5. Ben Dover says:

    Come on folks lets be honest, watching womans basketball is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

    1. Ethan says:

      Hahaha I was coming on here to say the exact same thing.

  6. R says:

    As a mother of 3 girls who play basketball, I find the whole subject matter very sad because it is outright sexism and you can see it throughout sports. Case in point, the NCAA Championship. When they air the men’s championship game, you’ll notice there is no NBA game scheduled – not one. The next day is the women’s championship. Not only are NBA games scheduled, but it’s not even aired on a major network like ABC or CBS. It’s on ESPN.
    If change is going to happen it has to start at the top with the NBA itself. The NBA channel will replay the NBA draft (which I thought was very boring this year) and other boring NBA shows when there are multiple WNBA games being played. And how often do you see, NBA players attend these games? Not very often, just here and there. Personally, I think they should be expected to attend at least 1 as a show of support. The only time you see this type of support is during Olympics. How do you expect others to respect the WNBA when the NBA doesn’t.
    Yes, it doesn’t have the speed and dunks of the men’s game. But, its great entertainment and for once, we have team we can be proud of. Dunks are overrated and they didn’t do us alot good in 2004 Olympics where the USA men’s team was beaten by basic fundamental basketball. For those who haven’t attended an WNBA game, I really encourage you to go to cheer on the Lynx. For the first time in 7 years we’re going to the playoffs!!! They’ve worked hard this year and are deserving of the entire state’s respect and support.

    1. Johnny Rain Cloud says:

      The main reason the women’s championship (which airs on ESPN2) doesn’t get on a main/major network is because they need to make money and lots of it! Tell me would the majority of the people interested in basketball watch a women’s championship or an NBA game?

      1. R says:

        We don’t know because they’ve never tried it. Personally, I’ve always watched both the men and women’s championship games as opposed to watching an NBA game. They play school pride and love of the sport; not money.

    2. Mr D says:

      “I think they should be expected to attend at least 1 as a show of support.”

      I would rather expect them to pay their child support.

  7. Rebecca says:

    No need to ask – the answer is obvious. The Lingerie “Football” League isn’t about playing a sport. It is solely in the business of selling sexual fantasies to men, just like other kinds of porn. Thank goodness the WNBA is classier than that.
    But you certainly proved one of the points about sexism impacting women’s sports. You read an article on “women’s basketball” and immediately associated it with the topics of sex and lingerie.

  8. askin says:

    Basketball is like watching arangutans jump from tree to tree.

    Did any of you know that Minnesota has a LaCrosse team? Why doesn’t that get coverage? Same concept as WMBA… some people just aren’t interested.

    1. one more says:

      Do we still have a soccar team? I don’t remember.

  9. AP says:

    Because women’s basketball is terrible and the Lynx would lose by 20 to the Hopkins boys team?

    ‘Good Question’ has officially jumped the shark.

  10. the who?? says:

    Never heard of the Lynx.

  11. RL says:

    Why do some guys go out of their way to ridicule women’s sports? 1) They ridicule women in all of life’s arenas; 2) They are dreadfully insecure about their masculinity – perhaps for good reason; 3) They have the maturity level of a 6 year old.

    1. union601 says:

      Oh please. Men ridiculing women? It strikes me that just the opposite is far, far more prevalent, regardless of what aspect of society is discussed. You need only watch an evening’s worth of prime time TV, as one example. The insults, put-downs, and general demeaning comments directed at men are so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted — just part of the “comedic formula” that no one seems to have any problem with, sad to say. Indeed, misandry has established itself as the popular culture’s growth industry, lo these past few decades, but again, no one seems to care.

  12. 1b says:

    Here’s why no one cares: because the social structures that perpetuate inequity in money and power are still in place.

    Don’t give me the oppressed male line.

    Nice use of the word “misandry” though. The difference is that misogyny has real, material effects on people.

    1. union601 says:

      Spoken like a true misandrist, 1b. And so only misogyny — as opposed to misandry — has, as you put it, “real, material effects on people”? Call me strange (and misandrists generally do), but I firmly uphold the notion, however radical it may be, that men are people, too.

      In any case, I’m grateful for the keen awareness and full grasp shown by the following writer:

      “… male bashing inflames a most ironic bigotry. Life is safer today, more secure and less strenuous, and it’s men who have paid the highest price for those gains. Yet today it’s men who receive the least consideration, gratitude, and respect.”
      –Mike Spaniola

  13. Mr D says:

    Because no one cares. It’s that simple.