Nneka Ogwumike’s Women’s History Month Greed Essay
Nneka Ogwumike is a WNBA champion, 2016 WNBA MVP and six-time WNBA all-star. She’s a power forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, and as president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), she propelled the 2020 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) forward. The groundbreaking eight-year ABC included a major increase in player cash compensation, better travel accommodations, family planning benefits, off-season career development opportunities, and more.
Sometimes your dreams find you, and then you can detail the vision. This is what happened to me. I always thought I was going to pursue a career in medicine. I alternated between obstetrician, orthopedics and dermatology. Basketball has always been a way to stay fit and well balanced. It wasn’t until the middle of my senior year that I realized maybe I could play professionally. This dream was encouraged by my sister Chiney. She has always been my number one fan and my cheerleader. I was on an incredible team, I was playing for a phenomenal institution, and I had the chance to write my own story. So I walked in the WNBA Draftgraduated early and ended up in Los Angeles.
I was two or three years in the league when I started to become more active in the union and the players’ association. I was the youngest in these meetings. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was like, “Collective bargaining agreement. What is this?” And at that point, I was also like, “Wait, we have our say? We have comments on this?” As women, you believe that your situation and your dreams are fixed. Realizing that you can contribute to change is what really fired me up. When WNBPA President Tamika Catchings retired, she insisted that I run in her place. Now I’m about to run for my third term, which is kind of crazy to think about. When you hear “OK, she’s the president”, it sounds like you have to make a lot of important decisions on your own, but you’re only as good as your team. I tried to make it my legacy to be the leader who leads by listening. I do my best to empower all these women, to talk about their concerns, to talk about what they think is going well, their ideas, their goals, their future. And that was, by far, the most rewarding part of the job. It makes me realize that “no” is not an answer for us. We’re gonna shake shit up.
We never tried to hear that we should “be thankful for what we have”. It’s just something we weren’t aligned with. It’s a tired and, honestly, irrelevant excuse. We don’t ask for more than men have. Ultimately, we want to be able to have exactly what we think we’re worth. Not just for us, but for future wives.
For anyone who has ever wondered “Why do you need more?” The league exists” or who said things like “Go back to the kitchen”, it makes me think that they are lazy. Don’t want to challenge your mind or expand your experiences? And what really doesn’t make sense to me is how against women in sports people can be knowing they have women in their lives. By arguing against women, you are really arguing against your own progression and existence.
As we seek to seek value, join arms and do it together.
Once you understand how to accentuate your value, especially through compensation, you must realize that it is our job to leave this door open. Once you’ve walked through a door, you shouldn’t close it. Let’s leave the door open for any other women who pass by, because we have a duty to ensure that they also progress. We were always brought up with the idea that there is one table, one room, and one seat for a woman, and that creates a dangerously competitive atmosphere. We are the arbiters of the system that has been built against us. As we seek to seek value, join arms and do it together. You also need to realize that if you have more than someone else and they want more, that doesn’t mean they’re taking you. We add more to the pot. It’s just another ingredient.
I live by the criteria of always wanting to be great, always wanting to be better than me yesterday. A lot of accomplishments and rewards that have come my way, I can’t say I dreamed about it necessarily, but I never saw it as a possibility. I invested myself knowing that the goal is for me to be awesome. I want to see the first million dollar contract in the WNBA. When I think about the sequel, the answer is anything. Everything and more.
– As said to Perri Konecky