Another great challenge is making the league a hip destination, not a social or moral obligation.
“You have to make your product interesting and entertaining and make it a choice,” said Paula Madison, the chief executive and majority owner of the Los Angeles Sparks. “You can’t get people to come to you because they feel badly. It can’t be, ‘Oh my God, I should go watch women’s basketball.’ ”
She added: “It’s got to be: ‘I had an unbelievable experience. It was so much fun, the level of play was great and the fans were great and I can take my kids and it didn’t break my wallet.’ That’s where we have to start.”
The Sparks have been one of the W.N.B.A.’s most successful franchises and Madison one of the league’s most dynamic owners. She decided to buy the team in 2007 after the radio host Don Imus referred to members of the predominantly black Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”
“That changed my whole life,” said Madison, who is African-American and was NBC’s diversity chief at the time. “It did two things. It made me, with all of my might, work really hard to have NBC separate itself from Don Imus.”"