Against the Current, No. 79, March/April 1999
Women Rising, Then and Now
— The Editors
Movement Grows to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
— Steve Bloom
Race and Politics: Blacks in Corporate America
— Malik Miah
Putting the Fox in Charge: What's Fair About the Fair Labor Association?
— Medea Benjamin
The Future of Israel and Palestine
— Harry Clark interviews Professor Israel Shahak
Hugo Chávez and the Crisis of the Dependent Countries: Nationalism, Populism & Democracy
— Guillermo Almeyra
Random Shots: Sic Transit Gloria Bunny
— R.F. Kampfer
- The Teamsters: From Carey to Hoffa
Why Junior Won-and What Next?
— Henry Phillips
The Election's Broader Impact
— Mike Parker
- For International Women's Day
The Misogyny of Welfare "Reform"
— Stephanie Luce interviews Randy Albelda
NYC's Workfare Shell Game: An Interview with Heidi Dorow
— The Editors
Claudia Clark's "Radium Girls"
— Dr. Sherry Baron
Review: Memoirs of An Underground Woman
— Rachel White
Josephine Herbst's "Pity is not Enough"
— Angela Hubler
Review: Recovering Surrealist Women
— Bertha Husband
The Rebel Girl: Death of Our Hoop Dreams
— Catherine Sameh
- Capital's Global Turbulence: A Symposium
A Reply to Robert Brenner
— Mary C. Malloy and Charlie Post
Accumulation and Control of Labor
— Hillel Ticktin
- In Memoriam
Joyce Maupin, 1921-1998
— Barri Boone
DECEMBER 22, 1998 will sadly be recorded in the pages of women’s sports history. On that day the American Basketball League, one third of the way into its third season, announced it was suspending operations and would immediately file for bankruptcy.
The news was unexpected and traumatizing. One player, Limor Mizrachi of the New England Blizzards, learned of the ABL’s collapse from family members who saw it on TV. Her coach K.C. Jones described it as the saddest day of his career, which goes back to the 1950s and the glory days of the Boston Celtics. Another ABL player, despondent over the end of her hoop dreams, has committed suicide.
The ABL was the real women’s professional basketball league—the one that played during the actual basketball season, paid its players well, and recruited talent deep into each of its nine teams. The league inspired young girls, old folks, families, lesbians, feminists, men and anyone else who gave it half a chance.
The ABL even had the power to convert the most skeptical, sports-hating woman into an excited, vocal women’s basketball fan. With all this going for it, why did the ABL fail?
Simply put: television, the arena where the ABL could not compete with its corporate counterpart, the National Basketball Association. Piggybacking on the momentum of the ABL’s 1996-97 inaugural season, the NBA launched the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in the summer of 1997.
With NBA ownership, the WNBA got NBC network coverage, big corporate sponsors and lots of media recognition. All this for a nine-week summer league that nurtured single-player stardom over quality ball playing.
The ABL on the other hand was founded and owned by a core group of the players and a few idealists with no corporate connections, but many great intentions. Their primary goal was to promote outstanding women’s basketball by building a strong league that nurtured its players’ development.
In this sense they succeeded; but despite its loyal fan base the ABL got only two major corporate sponsors and no major network TV coverage.
In early January Richard Blumenthal, attorney general for the state of Connecticut, where the city of Hartford hosted the Blizzards, issued a subpoena to the NBA. According to CBS SportsLine wire reports, “the subpoena was part of his investigation into whether the NBA used its clout to monopolize women’s basketball.”
Blumenthal claims “there’s evidence the NBA used sharp economic elbows to exclude the ABL . . . from fair play—including access to essential financial rights like TV and product sponsorships.” Attorneys General in other states with ABL teams may follow suit.
Even if the investigation goes nowhere, it provides some hope of an active stand against patriarchal and corporate control of professional sports—and an active stand is preferable to a nostalgic look back at that brief moment of women’s history-making.
I for one am too mad to be sad. Ah well, I hear Joe Hill calling.
ATC 79, March-April 1999