To the surprise of absolutely no one, Gilbert Arenas did something stupid today. In a disgusting display of misogyny, he posted the following on his Instagram account:
I know, I know. We’ve all seen this movie before: attention-starved former athlete says or does something outrageous for the sole satisfaction of seeing himself in the news again (usually followed by the ever-popular sequel, “I was hacked”). Remember, this is the same guy who almost single-handedly broke up a perennial Wizards playoff contender because he thought it’d be a fun idea to bring guns into the locker room, so making good decisions doesn’t seem to be a strong suit of his.
And let’s be honest here: how much have you heard of Gilbert Arenas since that incident?:
Social media gives a platform for individuals to make irrelevant comments and become relevant again.
— Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) December 16, 2015
Quite right, Candace. He hasn’t even played in the NBA since 2012, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a faster and more epic flameout.
Still, for whatever reason, Arenas felt the need to disparage the WNBA and its athletes, referring to the majority of its players as “beanpies” and suggesting that they’d have to dress like the women he posted on Instagram in order to be considered worthy of his time and money (even though he appears to be geographically challenged and wouldn’t know how to get to a WNBA game in the first place).
Not surprisingly, the league was quick to address the matter, with the following statement provided on behalf of both the NBA and WNBA by spokesman Mike Bass:
“Gilbert Arenas’s comments are repugnant, utterly disrespectful and flat-out wrong. WNBA players are strong, talented and determined individuals who give it their all on the court and serve as inspiring role models to millions around the world. They should be celebrated for their accomplishments, not disparaged with ignorant insults.”
He’s right, of course. Whether you watch it or not, the WNBA deserves your respect just as much as any other professional sports league (I’d argue even more so), and Arenas’s comments are incredibly offensive, disrespectful and sexist.
(Arenas himself doesn’t think he’s a sexist, and if you do, well, you’re ugly. Yeah, good luck figuring that one out.)
But there’s more to it than that. This isn’t just a single chauvinist making an attack on the WNBA and its players. It’s just one single instance of an ugly, shameful, discriminatory attitude that WNBA players and all other female athletes have to deal with…every single day:
— Ivory Latta (@IvoryLatta12) December 16, 2015
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and search for the WNBA on Twitter. Check out the “definition” for it on Urban Dictionary. Read the comments on a WNBA YouTube video or two.
…Yeah. For once, just read the comments. Read them and weep.
WNBA players get paid a small fraction of their male counterparts…and get stereotyped as lesbians. WNBA players play year-round, facing language barriers and culture shock while further risking injury and failure to be paid…and get told to “go back to the kitchen.” WNBA players go out of their way to sign autographs, pose for photos and interact with fans on Twitter, all the while paving the way for little girls who aspire to one day play basketball for a living just as they do…and get told that what they do isn’t important.
People like Gilbert Arenas don’t care. They’ll only pay to attend a WNBA game if Skylar Diggins is dressed in a thong:
I thought it was 2015, soon to be 2016! "Never Mind"🙄 pic.twitter.com/N3lAvWy8o4
— Seimone Augustus (@seimoneaugustus) December 17, 2015
And yet, perhaps above all else, this is why the WNBA is important. It’s because of stuff like this. Every day, there’s someone telling a female basketball player that she’s butch, that she’s not as good as the men and that she’s boring to watch because she can’t dunk.
The WNBA’s existence is proof that all of the above is wrong. It’s the biggest and longest-lasting pro women’s sports league in the world, and it’s refused to back down or simply go away in the face of loud-mouthed misogynists like Gilbert Arenas who find it threatening.
Because every day the WNBA exists, it’s a victory for women and a loss for the attitude that women a) can’t/shouldn’t do the same things as men can, b) don’t deserve the same respect that men do and c) should expose themselves and market their bodies to men in order to get attention:
— Elena Delle Donne (@De11eDonne) December 16, 2015
When we wake up tomorrow, the WNBA will still exist, while Mr. Arenas will have faded back into irrelevance.