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Seattle Storm GM: WNBA season delay a ‘necessary move’ for league

Seattle Storm players gather in a celebratory huddle after a 94-84 win over the Phoenix Mercury during Game 5 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal in 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

During the coronavirus pandemic, sports around the world have been put on pause. The NBA and MLS stopped mid-season, the MLB has now been delayed past opening day, the NWSL was halted before the season began,  and the WNBA just announced a season delay after games were originally scheduled to start in May.

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“There was an announcement on Friday by the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert that we would postpone,” said Alisha Valavanis, GM of the three-time WNBA champion Seattle Storm on KIRO Nights. “I don’t think it was a surprise. It was a necessary move.”

Currently, there is no set timeline for when the league will start its season.

“I think it was certainly acknowledgment of kind of the state of things and our league’s … role here to do our part in the bigger conversation,” Valavanis said.

In the interim, the athletes are continuing to stay active and fit, training as best as they can from home.

“I think this has really brought kind of visibility and light to the powerful platform these individuals athletes have,” Valavanis said. “And our athletes want to do their part. They really want to do their part to encourage people to stay home, to encourage people to kind of heed the warnings and, you know, follow the recommended guidelines.”

Athletes in the WNBA and across all leagues have been stepping up as influencers on social media, using their platform and voice to underline the stay home call to action so we can all, hopefully, return to sports in the near future.

The uncertainty of when sports will return is affecting everyone, Valavanis said.

“Athletes, they’re not immune to that,” she said. “We’re … focused on making sure they have the resources they need. They’re actively working out, things like that, to stay kind of focused. But there isn’t a timeline here, and I think that’s hard on everyone.”

As in other leagues, the WNBA is having conversations about contingency plans for a shortened season or missed season, though no official decisions have been made. Valavanis said they’re looking at a number of scenarios, considering both the business and performance sides, and what makes for a legitimate season.

“But the focus is certainly on the much bigger picture here,” she said. ” … Sports, we hope, is going to play a role in bringing us all back together and having something to bring society back and cheer for your team again.”

The Seattle Storm recently launched a line of new gear with the “We got this, Seattle” messaging. All proceeds from this gear go to the Food Lifeline of Seattle, and fans have already been purchasing.

“So that’s been really powerful to see, and this is historically what Seattle Storm fans do,” Valavanis said. “They show up, they support the efforts, and I think we’re seeing that around the country and around the globe.”

Valavanis is looking forward to the day when we can all unite again and cheer for our favorite teams.

“I think sports plays a unique role in our society. And I think that’s, right now, something that has been made very, very clear. We look to sports to bring us together, to have something kind of off the court from our lives to focus on and to be a part of, to bring joy, and to bring connectedness. So when it’s safe, I am excited. However many games that is, I’m excited for us to get back up and running.”

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Tune in to the WBNA Draft on ESPN on April 17, 2020, at 4 p.m. The Storm’s first selection in this year’s all virtual draft will be the 11th pick in the first round.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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