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WNBA players continue voting activism with Hoopers United NFT drop

(David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA Players Association is releasing its first official NFT collection on the OpenSea Platform on Thursday, with proceeds benefiting voting rights.

In collaboration with Hoopers Vote, a campaign launched during the 2020 election by Entertainment Broadcaster and Producer Ben Lyons and the HEARTLENT Group, the Hoopers United NFT collection will donate over 50 percent of each sale to Rock the Vote and the WNBPA.

Elliot Gerard, Founder and Head of Creative at HEARTLENT Group, is the creative force behind the collection, creating unique works of art that highlight WNBA players’ individuality and achievements.

“WNBA players have always been the first in every social issue that’s on the right side of history, and this is an opportunity to continue to support them as they’re out there balling and doing great stuff in the community,” Lyons told Just Women’s Sports. “I’m a huge fan of the athletes in the WNBPA. They are real-life superheroes that I admire and love to watch hoop and ball out.”

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(HEARTLENT Group/Elliot Gerard)

The players of the WNBA have long been vocal advocates for social and racial justice and voting rights. Their work reached a crescendo in 2020 when the players’ campaign for Rev. Raphael Warnock during the Georgia Senate race helped him win the seat over former Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, who had spoken out against WNBA’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think I always go back to the start of our partnership with Rock the Vote. Back in 2018 we started working with them and they just recognized how genuine the players were when it comes to voting rights and all that they wanted to do to amplify the message,” WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson told JWS.

“So, we stayed working with them through the midterms and the major election cycles, and started working with the whole Hoopers Vote initiative a few years ago when we were in the (WNBA) bubble.”

The players’ political and social activism, Jackson says, stems from their understanding of the responsibility they have in their diverse communities.

“What the players have always said is that it’s in their DNA,” Jackson said. “When you think about it what it means to be Black, Brown, woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, an ally of that community, the fact that pay equity is an issue that they champion, that women’s health is an issue that they champion, that all affects them. They see their connection and their responsibility to their communities.”

The Hoopers United NFT drop is a seamless way for the WNBPA to do what Jackson says the league’s players are best at — connecting the dots.

“This is the 144 that gave this country a lesson in civics, a lesson in democracy, just a few years ago and did it beautifully and so proudly,” Jacksons said. “They made a major statement. I don’t care what your politics are — they got people to the polls, they got them registered and interested in voting and passionate about it and paying attention, they got them completing the census, all issues that are just important lessons in civics.”

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(HEARTLENT Group/Elliot Gerard)

The NFT series will also celebrate the athletes’ significant achievements on the court. The Hoopers United collection will not just feature a select few WNBPA members, but the entire collective. Each piece of original artwork will celebrate the player’s singular contributions to sport and culture, raising their profile, honoring their accomplishments in the league and directing funds directly to the WNBPA.

“Our goal is to just to continue to highlight how they’re the best in the world and they should be compensated appropriately for it, and this is another way to drive some revenue towards them,” Lyons said.

NFTs, Lyons says, were a natural choice for the product in today’s shifting sports landscape.

“We all want access to our favorite athletes. We want some type of token of connection, and this provides that next opportunity to connect with your next favorite player,” Lyons said.

“This is another way fans are communicating. They’re building community, they’re sharing their love of their teams and their players in this space, and we wanted to make sure that the women of in the W all had an opportunity to be a part of this.”

The Hoopers United Genesis Drop will be available for purchase on Thursday on the Hoopers United website.

Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

Seattle Reign sale finalized, acquired for $58 million

The Seattle Reign have officially been sold. (Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Seattle Reign have officially been sold, with the OL Groupe selling the club to an ownership group that includes MLS’s Seattle Sounders and private equity firm the Carlyle Group.

The team was sold for a reported $58 million, after being acquired by OL Groupe in 2019 for $3.5 million.

"It's all about the potential going forward," Alex Popov of the Carlyle Groupe told ESPN. "And frankly, our starting point was off. You know, that's what attracted a lot of us to, including ourselves here at Carlyle, to think about investing in women's sport. We have seen the potential."

The valuation is the latest of rising numbers in the NWSL. San Diego Wave FC is in the process of a sale that values the team between $113 and $120 million. 

In the sale announcement, chief business officer of the Reign Maya Mendoza-Exstrom said that the team has no plans to move from Lumen Field. 

"It feels a little bit like we have the gritty startup mentality of an expansion franchise in this exciting moment, but we have this benefit of having a dedicated fan base that has been dedicated to this club, even though it has moved a ton and changed a ton over the last few years," she told ESPN. "So, I think the opportunity just to root this club in place -- Lumen is our home. The club's not moving anywhere."

Katie Ledecky punches ticket to Paris, fourth Olympics

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JUNE 15: Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the Women's 400 LC Meter Freestyle during the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky is officially on to her fourth straight Olympics, punching her ticket to Paris in the 400-meter freestyle on Saturday. 

But Ledecky’s wasn’t the only name in the headlines in Indianapolis. Virginia’s Gretchen Walsh set a World Record in the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday in the semifinal. And roughly 24 hours later, she was an Olympian, taking first in the event. 

"I was definitely nervous," Walsh said. "There were a lot of what-ifs. Coming off breaking the world record, I was thinking, 'Do I need to do that again just to make the team? What if I get third? What's that even even going to look like?'"

She later added that she “couldn’t ask for a better start” to the meet. 

Both Torri Huske and Regan Smith were under the previous American record placing second and third respectively. But Smith, whose time would’ve won her silver at the Tokyo Olympics, won’t swim the event in Paris after placing third. 

And in front of a record crowd, 46-year-old Gabrielle Rose proved that age is just a number. She set a best time in the 100-meter breaststroke en route to advancing to the semifinals of the event. There, she finished in 10th place – and with another best time. 

“I’m just hoping to show people you can do more, you’re capable of doing more,” Rose, a two-time Olympian, said. “You can have more energy, you can have more strength than you thought was possible. I want women in particular to not be afraid to be strong, to lift weights, to take care of themselves and just know that they can have a lot more in the older chapters of their lives.”

WNBA’s Rookie of the Year race heats up

WASHINGTON, DC -  JUNE 6: Angel Reese #5 of the Chicago Sky and Aaliyah Edwards #24 of the Washington Mystics after the game on June 6, 2024 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues to make waves this season, with the 2024 rookie class continuing to impress. 

Sky forward Angel Reese has registered six straight double-doubles, tying the longest streak for a rookie even as Chicago skids to a four-game losing streak. It’s also tied for the most by a rookie in WNBA history alongside Tina Charles and Cindy Brown.

Reese is the only rookie to average a double-double this season. But Mystics rookie Aaliyah Edwards has been averaging near a double-double this month, as Washington rattled off two back-to-back wins after a franchise-worst 0-12 start.

Kamilla Cardoso has been solid in her start to the season, registering her first professional double-double on Sunday with 10 points and 10 rebounds. 

Caitlin Clark has had a solid month for the Fever, leading the rookies with an average of 14.0 points per game. On Sunday, she neared a triple-double with 23 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds in the Fever’s win over Chicago. 

And after an abysmal start amidst a tough stretch of games, the Fever have now won four out of their last six games, with last year's Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston getting into the groove with scoring.

In Los Angeles, rookie duo Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson have been putting together a solid season, with both netting 16 points apiece in the team’s loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

Those looking for a clear frontrunner for rookie of the year won’t get one: Clark (assists), Reese (rebounds, steals), and Brink (blocks) each currently sit in the top five league-wide in a number of key stats.

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