This week, Portland and our entire state came together to assemble a “dream team” of Oregon’s women’s sports luminaries at local bar The Sports Bra to show WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert that Portland is ready to get in the game — and make the winning shot — for a WNBA team.
With an all-star panel of former WNBA stars, the president of the Portland Thorns, coaches and current basketball stars for the University of Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers, top executives from the Trail Blazers and the Oregon School Activities Association, along with a crowd of young women athletes with homemade signs reading “a woman’s place is on the court,” “play like a girl” and “the future is female,” the evidence was overwhelming: Rip City is poised to become a WNBA city.
Looking around the room, I saw in the smiling faces of the young women athletes there with their families, coaches and supporters that they know full well they are walking in footsteps trod long ago. And these young athletes are the direct result of strong representation of women in professional sports — and would benefit from having new heroes locally playing for a WNBA team here in their home state.
One sign read: “Title IX: 50 Years of Fair Play,” and I am reminded that 50-plus years ago one simple sentence changed the trajectory of our nation’s athletics: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity. Because of Title IX, generations of young women can participate in sports that build confidence, create lifelong bonds among teammates, and often go hand-in-hand with success in the classroom.
I was honored to co-host Commissioner Engelbert’s visit with Jenny Nguyen, owner and CEO of The Sports Bra — a bar devoted to celebrating and watching women’s sports. There’s no gathering space like this, but I’m predicting one day that many others will learn from this latest Oregon first, and follow the trail Jenny has blazed right here in Portland on Northeast Broadway.
I was thrilled Commissioner Engelbert visited Portland so she could see and hear how our entire state has proven to be an epicenter for women’s sports. From the off-the-charts attendance numbers at Thorns matches to the huge crowds that flock to women’s college basketball games across the state, there’s no doubt a WNBA team would be a slam-dunk success in the Moda Center.
And I’m all in to be on the team working to make that happen.