Baltimore native and WNBA star Angel McCoughtry is set to play in her third Olympics this summer. But she has something else on her mind these days.
McCoughtry, a five-time All-Star with the Las Vegas Aces, and other athletes voiced their displeasure with the NCAA over the inequities between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March. College players took to social media to document the scarce exercise equipment available to the women’s teams in San Antonio, while the men had the benefit of a fully stocked weight room in locations across Indiana. (The NCAA later apologized for “dropping the ball” while attempting to make improvements.)
The story sparked a broader discussion about the disparity between men’s and women’s sports. Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green weighed in, tweeting that instead of focusing on the wage gap — WNBA players make $75,000 on average, while NBA players made $7.7 million in 2020 — women should be “transforming women’s basketball into a global game” through investment and storytelling.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about the pay gap between women and men. Especially in sports. It’s not even close,” Green wrote March 27. “But let’s stop allowing y’all complaints to fall on deaf ears due to numbers. As long as y’all make the argument about pay, while the revenue stays the same they will continue to point at the revenue not being high enough to cover bigger salaries. While that is true in damn near every business, how do we take that card out of their pockets? That’s the key to changing the pay.”
McCoughtry was among the many athletes, including U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who fired back.
“Draymond, have you done your research?” she said during a video conference call with reporters at Team USA camp earlier this month. “Have you asked us questions? Don’t you think we’ve tried to do that kind of stuff? No, he hasn’t done his research. That’s my only thing with Draymond. With us, we want to get our stories out. I’ve created a TV show about these kind of issues, it’s a dramatic comedy called Fair Games. I’ve gone to Sony where [NBA star] Steph Curry and people are — we got turned down.
“[These companies say] ‘We don’t want a show about the WNBA.’ We’re trying to get our story out. So, Draymond, do your research before you tell us to do this and to do that. We’ve been doing it for years. Now is the time you’re taking notice. So, I think Draymond needs to talk more to the women before thinking he had a bright idea.”
McCoughtry has been vocal about women receiving fair and equitable treatment in sports. She’s an investor in PlayersTV as the Head of Culture, working to empower women by helping create, produce and distribute content.
The Dallas-based media group is a startup that specializes in entertainment surrounding sports, culture and the lives of players outside of the game. The plan for McCoughtry is to promote the stories of women in sports to the same level as men.
“A lot of these platforms, you just see the stories about the guys,” McCoughtry said. “You hear their stories all of the time. Who knows what we go through, who knows how to raise a child and still play in the WNBA? The child is coming to practice, the child is going overseas — who knows, and it hasn’t been told. We’re at the point now that we want to get it out. My TV show, I’m not going to stop talking to networks until somebody picks it up. It’ll get there.”
McCoughtry is in a unique position for her new role, with a decorated career in the pros, college and high school. The 6-foot-1 guard/forward was picked in the first round of the 2009 WNBA draft out of Louisville. Since then, she’s racked up five All-Star appearances and two All-WNBA first-team selections. She’s also a two-time WNBA scoring champion, a two-time steals leader and a seven-time All-Defensive first-team selection.
The 34-year-old is in the midst of USA Basketball camp, preparing for her third Summer Games. She’s already proved why she’s an essential piece to the team’s success, winning gold medals in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. This summer’s event in Tokyo will have a different feel after the games were pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with international fans prohibited from attending.
No matter the circumstances, McCoughtry said she jumps at every opportunity she gets to don the red, white and blue.
“They each have significance,” McCoughtry said of the Team USA uniforms. “I’m not going to say that one has more significance. They’re all significant, they’re all beautiful in their own way, they’re all important. The only thing that’s different is where are we going this time? And this time, we’re going to Tokyo. I want to take every experience like it’s my last. I think Kobe [Bryant] taught us that. We’re not going to take for granted any opportunity, we’re not going to complain. I just want to enjoy every moment.”
No to mention, McCoughtry lives and breathes Baltimore basketball.
The St. Frances alum keeps tabs on players from the area, whether it’s in the WNBA, NBA, college or even high school. One particular team that she focused on was Maryland, which featured a former Panthers star in freshman Angel Reese.
“I feel like Baltimore always has a lot of talent on the men and women’s side,” McCoughtry said. “It’s just the DMV area. We’re not far from DC, not far from Philly, not far from Virginia — just that whole combined area has so much talent. I was watching Maryland play the other day and they’ve got some great talent from our area. So, it’s really exciting to see what’s coming out.”