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Five WNBA players who have made the crypto leap

Jewell Loyd, a longtime crypto investor, is a Coinbase brand ambassador. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The WNBA has officially entered the wide world of cryptocurrency. The league joined forces with Coinbase in October, making the company the league’s exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner.

As part of the partnership, all 144 members of the WNBA Players’ Association will receive Coinbase accounts and crypto funds to become more familiar with the space. The partnership also features educational sessions on crypto and NFTs for the players.

The WNBA is no stranger to the marketplace, having partnered with Top Shot last summer to release NFTs featuring the league’s top moments and players. In May, the New York Liberty became the first team in WNBA history to launch an NFT with their digital nail art series.

The league and its teams aren’t the only ones getting in on the action, either. Here are five WNBA players who have taken advantage of the crypto and NFT marketplace.

Jewell Loyd

A longtime student of financial investing, Loyd has been active in the cryptocurrency market since 2013. So, when the WNBA and Coinbase teamed up ahead of this season, the Seattle Storm star was eager to become a brand ambassador for the company.

“Coming into the league, I was steps ahead of most people ahead because I was lucky to have a good background,” Loyd recently told Just Women’s Sports. “I understood the fundamentals and had a good foundation. The moment I got into the league and got my first check, it was let’s invest this. Let’s save this, put it somewhere and strategize.”

Loyd announced the partnership officially on Instagram in May, posting a piece of digital art by artist Yasmin Shima with the caption: “It’s time to secure the W in crypto. I’m proud to be a part of team Coinbase.”

In addition to her personal investments, Loyd has long been a vocal supporter of the crypto economy. The four-time All-Star was a part of Front Office Sports’ Learning Crypto in Sports Essentials course, where she discussed athletes’ connections with and adoption of cryptocurrency in the sports industry.

Through the league’s partnership with Coinbase, the 28-year-old is hopeful that her fellow WNBA players will learn about all of the financial opportunities the crypto market has to offer.

“It’s finally a language everyone can speak,” Loyd said. “It’s something you can teach anybody who has access to this. Not everyone can go to a bank and get a credit line. It’s easier for somebody to open a Coinbase account and start using it that day.”

Sue Bird

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(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle Storm veteran Sue Bird was one of the first WNBA players to develop her own digital art, headlining a group of athletes represented by the Wasserman sports agency. “The Collective Series,” a collection of non-fungible token trading cards, was released in May 2021 to Zora, a crypto collectibles marketplace.

Los Angeles-based artist Lauren Nipper brought the trading card renderings to life.

“Typically, athletes are bound by union and league restrictions, so the nature of NFTs in allowing women athletes, in this instance, to have full autonomy and agency over their own name and likeness in the crypto realm is a really unique opportunity,” Circe Wallace, Wasserman’s EVP of action and Olympic sports, said ahead of the release.

“The Collective Series” also included NFTs from USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, X Games skateboarder and gold medalist Mariah Duran, Paralympian Scout Bassett and several other WNBA athletes.

In May, ahead of her final season in the WNBA, Bird also became a brand ambassador for Coinbase. Announcing the partnership on social media, she wrote, “Here’s to the new era for women in crypto.” As a part of her deal, Bird will develop NFTs that will be available on Coinbase NFT.

The four-time champion has helped spearhead the WNBA’s crypto movement before she officially walks away from the game at the end of this season, her 19th in the league.

Sabrina Ionescu

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(Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu has been at the forefront of culture, business and basketball since making her WNBA debut in 2020. So, it’s no surprise that Ionescu has been one of the first WNBA athletes to get involved in the NFT marketplace.

In May, the 24-year-old joined forces with Autograph, an NFT platform co-founded by NFL legend Tom Brady, for the “The Future is…” Collection. The series features Ionescu and four other young athletes who are changing their sport: Devin Booker, Coco Gauff, Justin Herbert and Collin Morikawa.

“I’m so excited to be a part of the next era of digital collecting and the Web3 world alongside so many other amazing athletes,” Ionescu said in a press release. “I want to make sure the next generation knows that there’s a place for them in Web3, and Autograph is helping to pave the way.”

Ionescu selected Los Angeles-based illustrator and designer Kelly Malka as her collection artist for the NFT series.

“I was so honored to hear that Sabrina Ionescu picked me! I really admire her and her work ethic, she’s really paving the way for the new generation of young female athletes, and I’m excited to be a small part of her journey,” Malka said.

Elena Delle Donne

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(Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Elena Delle Donne of the Washington to Mystics is also on the cutting edge of NFTs, partnering with the popular SODA: Society of Degenerate Apes in January. The WNBA star has two unique SODAs made in her image, adding to an NFT she already owns from the collection.

“So excited to officially have my own 1/1 (Derivative Apes) loved the first one I bought but this just takes it over the top,” Delle Donne tweeted as part of the announcement earlier this year.

Delle Donne has gotten involved in the crypto space as well. She and her wife, Amanda, share a Coinbase Wallet in an effort to learn as much as they can about the wide world of Web3 before diving in headfirst.

Aari McDonald

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(Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)

As Aari McDonald led Arizona to the NCAA championship game in 2021, her national profile and WNBA Draft stock soared, culminating in the Atlanta Dream selecting her with the No. 3 pick in that year’s draft. Like Collier, McDonald’s draft night is commemorated with an NFT as part of Wasserman’s collection.

“To go top 3 in the draft and hear my name called was a dream come true. All of my hard work and sacrifice paid off and I am glad that so many of my loved ones got to be in the moment with me,” reads McDonald’s NFT, emblazoned with neon accents.

All three WNBA players in the collection opted for an auction sale, according to Queen Ballers Club. A year after the initial release, Bird’s highest bid is roughly equivalent to $300, Charli Collier’s is close to $100, and McDonald’s is near $35, with the platform allowing users to trade and resell their digital art.

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

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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