FILE PHOTO: Sep 29, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert address the media before game one of the 2019 WNBA Finals between the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun at The Entertainment and Sports Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The “virtual” WNBA Draft will go on as scheduled April 17 with precautions in place to minimize health risks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s announcement of all picks will air live on ESPN2. Top prospects will take part remotely, a plan similar to what has been disclosed by the NFL for its player draft six days later.
“The WNBA draft is a time to celebrate the exceptional athletes whose hard work and dreams are realized with their selections in the draft,” Engelbert said in a statement Thursday. “Safeguarding the health and well-being of our prospects, players, employees, and everyone connected to our game as well as the general public is paramount. With that in mind, we will work diligently with our broadcast partner, ESPN, to create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes.”
Also planned during the draft are tributes to Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, who died in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26.
The WNBA has not altered plans to have players report to training camp on April 26. However, Engelbert said Thursday that “the league is conducting ongoing scenario planning around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the upcoming season, including the currently scheduled start of training camp on April 26 and the scheduled tip of the WNBA season on May 15, and will provide updates regarding any changes to key dates.”
The NBA is on hiatus until at least April 12 and players are not likely to be asked to report until May, commissioner Adam Silver said. When the league returns to action, the expectation is it will do so without fans present for safety reasons.
—Field Level Media