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WNBA Star Lexie Brown Changing the Game in Athletes Unlimited League

WNBA Star Lexie Brown Changing the Game in Athletes Unlimited League

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Within the landscape of professional sports, the power of women has been undeniable. But the true game-changer, when it comes to women in sports, is leadership. The imprint of women continues to be notable, and it’s not just one sport or one segment of sports.

Athletes Unlimited is a network of player-driven pro sports leagues designed to maximize athlete potential, as well as the fan experience. Athletes Unlimited leagues include women’s professional softball and softball AUX (a second, shorter season), volleyball, lacrosse, and basketball.

What I believe to be one of the essential opportunities for the athletes is to compete professionally in the United States, avoiding having to travel overseas.

Athletes Unlimited eliminates owners, coaches, and the traditional team-based, multi-city sports format that affords athletes the power of governance and revenue sharing, while introducing a new scoring system that directly impacts player compensation while engaging fans around the world. It’s all about creating opportunities for players both on and off the court, helping to grow and enhance their own brands.

WNBA star Lexie Brown knows about building a brand. Daughter of WNBA player Tammy Brown and NBA Player Father Dee Brown, 29-year-old Brown is creating her own legacy. In her “Jordan era,” the 5’9″ Guard for the LA Sparks is a shooting phenom and has overcome the challenge of injuries to have an abundant career in the WNBA. Off the court, Brown co-hosts the Gilbert Arenas Show and serves as an ambassador for Fashion Nova.

Brown battled untreated and undiagnosed Crohn’s disease for the entirety of the 2023 WNBA season. Athletes Unlimited is her first step back on the court following almost a year of pain, procedures, and finally recovery.

BGN had the opportunity to speak with Lexie via Zoom about following in her parents’ footsteps, the importance of Athletes Unlimited, and her personal goals for the upcoming WNBA season.

Basketball has been in your blood since day one, with both of your parents having played professional basketball. What did that look like for you growing up and ultimately being drafted into the WNBA?

I ended up falling in love with basketball, mostly because I wanted to spend a lot of time with my dad. I’m a daddy’s girl through and through. So, the love started there, just wanting to spend a lot of time with my dad. I wasn’t very good growing up! My dad knew that it was going to be a lot of work that we had to do — the time he carved out for me. Now, myself being a pro and a little bit older, [I’m] truly understanding how much time my dad poured into me — at the gym, late nights, early mornings, before school, after school — just how important that was to me. My dad was literally teaching me basketball; building my game from the ground up when he was in his 30s and early 40s. All the time and effort that he and my mom have poured into me have been so important, and the work ethic that they instilled in me I still have from a young age. I’m so grateful to them.

As for Athletes Unlimited, the goal is to reimagine the business of sports for women leagues. Can you talk about the importance of the organization, and the ways in which it benefits the athletes?

Athletes Unlimited is an organization of multiple sports. It’s player-led and player-ran, so it’s completely flipping your typical sports business model on its side. I have always been into business; it’s what I have my degree in. Getting involved as an athlete and as a person on the player executive committee was something I was so excited to do. We bring all the fun of sports and athletics, and we take out the politics. We take out the drama — the front office not getting along with the coaching staff. We listened to the players of past seasons and current seasons about things we need to improve and things we need to change. We implement game play rules and talk with referees about things we want to try out. All the way down to where we live; the cities we’re going to play in; roster construction; what facilitators we’re going to bring in — everything is about us, and I think sometimes that is what’s missing. The NBA, WNBA, NFL, you name it, at the end of the day it’s a money machine. Sometimes you forget that athletes are humans and that kind of gets lost. Athletes Unlimited is a great way to enjoy a sport at its purest form.

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It seems as though Athletes Unlimited is humanizing the athletes. The main thing I think of with the WNBA is pay equity. Is this something you’re hoping to change and make better?

When we signed our current CBA [collective bargaining agreement], I was just a rookie. So, I didn’t really know much about the business of sports. I didn’t even know what a collective bargaining agreement was coming into the league. I think that we did a lot of things right in that last CBA, but a lot has changed since we signed it. I think our media negotiations are going to be huge for this next CBA. The contracts from when I first got into the league, until now, have grown significantly, so I don’t want that to get lost on people. Yes, the salaries are nowhere near what we should be making but there’s progress. I’m making, and everyone in the league, are making a lot more than players 10 years ago made. That’s progress and we’re headed in the right direction. We’re getting an additional team next season. I didn’t think I was going to see expansion in my WNBA career. Women’s basketball is the moment right now. So, I’m really excited about what growth happens in the next few years.

The Los Angeles Sparks season opener is May 15, 2024, against the Atlanta Dream. What are you most looking forward to this season, and what are some personal goals you’re striving for?

My personal goal is to be this veteran leader I haven’t had a chance to be yet. I think I thrive best in leadership roles. I’ve learned a lot in my career — six years I’ve been in the league. I’m excited to use everything I’ve learned and absorbed over time and just be a really good vet to our younger players and a really good teammate to our other vets. Another personal goal is I’d love to be an all-star this season. Before last season was cut short, I had a really good chance of becoming an all-star. So, I think having this team and an organization that believes in me; giving me the extension; instilling my confidence; supporting me when I was dealing with my illness, has made me excited and dialed-in for this upcoming season.

As a team goal, obviously championship is everyone’s aspiration, but the first step is to get us back into the playoffs and make us contenders. I’m just really excited to be part of this rebuild and bring the Sparks to what they were in the past.

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