The gender wage gap is slowly closing between men and women and that revolution has spread to professional basketball via the six-team Global Mixed Gender Basketball league.
The future of basketball is one in which male and female players are competing together in one league, and the dream is alive.
The Washington Fusion team, owned by famed musician and D.C. native Anwan “Big G” Glover, played against the Chicago Vikings on Nov. 16 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, home arena of the 2019 WNBA champion Washington Mystics.
James Scott, CEO of GMGB and Jam Network and mastermind behind the nascent organization, envisioned pro basketball leagues that were not separated by gender.
“Global Mixed Gender Basketball is about equality,” he said. “We are the future of basketball. The first quarter is three women and two men. The second quarter is three men and two women. It alternates each quarter. This makes for an exciting game and you can see here tonight.”
The GMGB league has rules that differ from standard NBA and WNBA regulations. For instance, each three-point shot made by a woman counts for four points.
The league extends the concept of men and women working together in all positions, featuring both male and female referees and coaching staffs. Coaches include WNBA icon Lisa Leslie with the New Orleans Gators and NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins with the Atlanta Heirs.
“This is so dope for our city right now,” said Glover, who played Slim Charles in HBO’s series “The Wire” and is one of the founders of renowned go-go group BackYard Band. “Families can come out and enjoy together. Girls and boys always play at the Recreation together but they can never compete on a level where there is competition. So now we have it right here.”
The audience at the game enjoyed crowd-participation contests, a BYB halftime show, and the Washington Fusion ambassadors’ front stage performance.
“I play for Imagine Foundations at Leeland Public Charter School basketball team,” said Sydney Mccollough, 11, who attended Saturday’s game with her father, Jason Mccollough. “There is a boys and girls team. It would be amazing if we could all play together. This game is very exciting. I for sure want to play for them in the future.”
Rosters and coaches include ex-NBA players such as Andre Barrett, Khalid El-Amin and Michael Sweetney, as well as former and current WNBA players such as Sonia Chase, Adrianne Ross, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Natasha Cloud and Tiffany Bias.
“We have played with guys before but to complete with a crowd watching and cheering us on is totally different,” Ross said. “For me, the best part was seeing the little girls and boys so excited when we scored and getting into it. It’s groundbreaking and cool to be a part of it.”
Chase, who coaches the Fusion and played college hoops at the University of Maryland College Park, said she never would have imagined wage equality in sports coming to fruition.
“This was basketball at its best,” she said. “I never thought I would be in a position where men and women could get paid the same amount playing sports. When you have men and women playing on the court at the same time, getting paid the same amount, for me this is what life is all about. Equal play, equal pay and working together as a team.”
Celebrity owners in the six-team league include Percy “Master P” Miller (New Orleans Gators), Tameka “Tiny” Harris (Atlanta Heirs), Ice-T (New York Nights), Trick Daddy (Miami Ballers) and Laura Govan (Chicago Vikings).
The league aims to expand to eight teams in the near future.
Donetta Wilson, a community activist in D.C. and founder of the Makiyah Wilson Foundation, says her slain daughter Makiyah played co-ed basketball at Fort Stanton Recreation Center in Southeast.
“She wanted to be like her dad and brother,” Wilson said. “She loved playing sports like football and basketball. She would play with the boys. She was a girl but leaned more towards tomboy. The game tonight was awesome. I didn’t know how it was going to work but it’s awesome to see it. I like the way they put it together. I know Makiyah would have loved to see a game like this. I’m glad I have the opportunity to support it.”
For more information, go to www.globalmixedgenderbasketball.com. Follow the Washington Fusion on social media @washingtonfusion.
Purchase tickets at The Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak St. SE) or online at www.esaontherise.com.