01/27/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/27/2023 17:10
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today announced that WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert has accepted his invitation to participate in a panel discussion on women's sports during her visit to Portland on Monday, Feb. 6.
The women's basketball coaches from Oregon State University and the University of Oregon as well as top Trail Blazers and Thorns executives will be among those contributing to the roundtable conversation about how the city can help continue to support the growth of women's sports in the United States.
"I'm thrilled that Commissioner Engelbert is coming to Portland so she can see and hear how our entire state has proven to be an epicenter for women's sports," Wyden said. "Look at the off-the-charts attendance numbers that the Thorns draw for soccer in Portland, or the huge crowds that women's college basketball draws throughout Oregon, and there's no doubt a WNBA team would be a slam-dunk success in the Moda Center."
"I'm excited to visit Portland, a city with a great sports history and an incredible fanbase that has shown tremendous support and enthusiasm for women's sports," Engelbert said. "We continue to see a huge demand for the WNBA around the country, and the city of Portland is a perfect illustration of this. I'm looking forward to discussing the upward trajectory of the league and the momentum that women's sports is currently experiencing and where it is headed."
Wyden said he was especially pleased that Jenny Nguyen will host the roundtable. Nguyen is the owner of The Sports Bra, the landmark sports bar in Northeast Portland that's attracted national attention as a first-of-its-kind gathering place focused on women's sports.
In addition to Wyden, Engelbert and Nguyen, others scheduled to attend are OSU women's basketball coach Scott Rueck; UO women's basketball coach Kelly Graves; Trail Blazers president of business operations Dewayne Hankins; Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin; Trail Blazers executive vice president and chief revenue officer Andrea Bailey; Trail Blazers director of basketball planning & strategy Asjha Jones; Trail Blazers scouting manager Sheri Sam; Trail Blazers intern and current WNBA player Evina Westbrook; and Karina LeBlanc, General Manager and President of Thorns FC Operations.
"I've had the privilege of experiencing firsthand the passion for the Thorns in this community as both a player and now as a member of the front office," LeBlanc said. "Portland is truly a world-class city in its support of women's sports, and we have only scratched the surface of the potential in this market and beyond. The growth and interest in women's sports are on the rise, and I believe it will only continue on an upward trajectory."
"Throughout my lifetime as an Oregonian I have witnessed the highest level of support and respect for women's sports, from our youth and high school leagues to college sports to the Portland Thorns," Rueck said. "Our program is known for the overwhelming support of Beaver Nation from all over the state. More professional opportunities for Beaver alumni and their fans to support them would be amazing. I am excited about the possibility of adding a WNBA franchise in Portland."
"I'm confident that Ducks fans throughout Oregon would support the WNBA with the same high level of commitment and enthusiasm they consistently provide our team here in Eugene," Graves said. "The most passionate fan base for women's basketball is in our state. Add in the city of Portland's passion for the Thorns and women's athletics, and it's a layup that a WNBA franchise would flourish in the state of Oregon."