Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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Why Is There New Interest In Fusion Energy?

A company by the name of Zap Energy is trying to find a way to develop more energy output from fusion reactions.

Temperatures hotter than the center of the sun, the highest-energy lasers in the world, magnets the size of a basketball court — and the promise of virtually unlimited energy on Earth. 

Dozens of universities and governments around the world are pursuing fusion energy, hoping to obtain a limitless energy source that produces no carbon emissions. 

At Zap Energy outside Seattle, researchers are among the 35 private companies racing to crack the puzzle.  

Ben Levitt is the director of research and development at Zap Energy. 

“I run a team here of physicists and engineers at this lab. We do the development on the fusion core reactor right here,” said Levitt. “Where we need to get to is getting more energy output from these fusion reactions than is required as input. In other words, to light the candle, you need a certain amount of energy.” 

No one here is wearing radiation protection. Scientists say nuclear fusion is very different than nuclear fission, which powers hundreds of power plants across the world. 

“Fission, which is commercially available and has been so since, you know, right after World War II, is the breaking apart of large nuclei. Think of uranium and plutonium, those things, when you take a large nucleus and split it apart, you get a bunch of energy coming out and that’s great,” Levitt said. 

But fission reactors also produce thousands of tons of radioactive waste each year.  

“Fusion, on the other hand, is quite different and is not yet commercially available. This is the process that exists in all the stars in all the galaxies in the universe. So the challenge for us is how do you create a star on Earth? Our sun is made up predominantly of hydrogen and helium. What the sun also has is a lot of gravitational force. So it can compress all this hot gas, hot enough and dense enough that these nuclei of hydrogen come so close together they actually fuse and they’re pushed together to create another nucleus, a heavier nucleus, which is helium. And you get even more energy than in the fission reaction,” said Levitt. 

To “create that star on Earth,” says Levitt, researchers must contain a mysterious substance called plasma.

“In order of increasing temperature, you can start at a solid, increase the temperature you get to a liquid, then to a gas,” he said.  “What happens when you go even hotter than a gas? That’s a plasma.”

Plasma’s charged particles repel one another.  

“The trick is to force them together, long enough that they’ll fuse,” he continued. 

Smushing charged plasma to achieve fusion takes incredible force. A massive machine called the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California uses 192 giant lasers to push the plasma together.   

A facility under construction in France called Iter will use huge magnets to try to achieve fusion. 

Zap, meanwhile, is working to make smaller scale reactors. Their name reflects their strategy: By hitting the plasma with a zap of lightning, they create magnetic fields that they believe can eventually keep the plasma together. 

“If we can create this actually confined plasma with its own magnetic field, it will self confine without the need for any other confinement technology,” said Levitt. 

But big hurdles loom. Tritium gas is a rare isotope of hydrogen that serves as a key ingredient for fusion.  

Recent reports, including an article in Science Magazine, suggest a shortage of the gas could derail efforts to achieve fusion. 

The bigger problem is that despite billions of dollars of funding and decades of research into fusion, no experiment has ever produced a sustained fusion burn. 

“We’ve been making fusion reactions for more than a decade now. The issue is producing more energy output from fusion reactions than is required to start. These fusion reactions are what’s called this energy break-even demonstration. We believe we’re right around the corner from doing so,” said Levitt. 

That achievement could make Zap Energy a household name and transform the world energy system for centuries. 

Source: newsy.com

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Former MLB Pitcher Turned Police Officer Varvaro Dies In Car Crash

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 12, 2022

37-year-old Anthony Varvaro was an officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after a career with the Mariners, Braves and Red Sox.

Anthony Varvaro, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who retired in 2016 to become a police officer in the New York City area, was killed in a car crash Sunday morning on his way to work at the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony in Manhattan, according to police officials and his former teams.

Varvaro, 37, was an officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He played baseball at St. John’s University in New York City before a career in the majors as a relief pitcher with the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox from 2010 to 2015.

“We are deeply saddened on the passing of former Braves pitcher Anthony Varvaro,” the Braves said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and colleagues.”

The crash happened Sunday morning in New Jersey. Messages seeking details about the crash were left with New Jersey state police.

St. John’s head baseball coach Mike Hampton said he was “at a loss for words” over Varvaro’s death.

“Not only was he everything you could want out of a ball player, he was everything you could want in a person,” said Hampton, who was an assistant coach at St. John’s during all three of Varvaro’s seasons there. “My heart goes out to his family, friends, teammates and fellow officers.”

Port Authority officials said in a statement that Varvaro “represented the very best of this agency, and will be remembered for his courage and commitment to service.”

“On this solemn occasion as the Port Authority mourns the loss of 84 employees in the attacks on the World Trade Center — including 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department — our grief only deepens today with the passing of Officer Varvaro,” said the statement by Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole and Executive Director Rick Cotton.

Raised in Staten Island in New York City, Varvaro was drafted by Seattle in the 12th round in 2005. He played for the Mariners in 2010 and Atlanta from 2011 to 2014.

Varvaro was traded to the Red Sox in late 2014 and pitched 11 innings for Boston early in the 2015 season. In May 2015, the Chicago Cubs claimed him off waivers from Boston, but returned him to the Red Sox after testing showed he had an elbow injury in his right pitching arm, which resulted in season-ending surgery.

For his major league career, he pitched 183 innings in 166 games, compiling a 3.23 earned run average, 150 strikeouts and one save.

In 2016, he appeared in 18 games for Boston’s top minor league affiliate before retiring in June and beginning his police training.

Varvaro, who studied criminal justice at St. John’s and graduated in 2005, told the student newspaper, The Torch, in December 2016 that he inquired about police jobs at the Port Authority while pitching in the majors.

“I figured that I had a pretty successful career in baseball, I had played a number of seasons, and I was fine moving on to the next step of my life,” he told the newspaper.

Port Authority officials said Varvaro became a police officer in December 2016 and was assigned to patrol for nearly five years before transferring to the Port Authority Police Academy to become an instructor.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Weather Helping, But Threat From Western Fires Persists

By Associated Press
September 11, 2022

Cooler temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview Fire after sweltering heat last week.

Firefighters made progress against a huge Northern California wildfire that was still growing and threatening thousands of mountain homes, while crews also battled major blazes Sunday in Oregon and Washington.

The Mosquito Fire in foothills east of Sacramento spread to nearly 65 square miles, with 10% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“Cooler temperatures and higher humidity assisted with moderating some fire activity,” but higher winds allowed the flames to push to the north and northeast, according to a Cal Fire incident report Sunday.

More than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties were under threat and some 11,000 residents of communities including Foresthill and Georgetown were under evacuation orders.

In Southern California, cooler temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview Fire about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles after sweltering heat last week.

The 44-square-mile blaze was 45% contained Sunday. The fire has destroyed at least 30 homes and other structures in Riverside County. Two people died while fleeing flames last Monday.

The southern part of the state welcomed the cooler weekend weather as a tropical storm veered off the Pacific Coast and faded, helping put an end to blistering temperatures that nearly overwhelmed the state’s electrical grid.

Thunderstorms and the risk of flooding persisted in mountainous areas of greater Los Angeles on Sunday. But after Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico last week it quickly was downgraded and weakened further until it largely disappeared, forecasters said.

In Washington state, a raging wildfire sparked Saturday in the remote Stevens Pass area sent hikers fleeing and forced evacuations of mountain communities. There was no containment Sunday of the Bolt Creek Fire, which had scorched nearly 12 square miles of forestland east of Seattle.

“It’s going to be several days” before crews get a handle on the blaze, Peter Mongillo, spokesperson for Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue, told the Seattle Times.

California’s Mosquito Fire has covered a large portion of the Northern Sierra region with smoke. California health officials urged people in affected areas to stay indoors where possible. Organizers of the Tour de Tahoe canceled the annual 72-mile bicycle ride scheduled Sunday around Lake Tahoe because of the heavy smoke from the blaze — more than 50 miles away. Last year’s ride was canceled because of smoke from another big fire south of Tahoe.

The Mosquito Fire’s cause remained under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric said unspecified “electrical activity” occurred close in time to the report of the fire on Tuesday.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the last five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in state history.

And the rest of the West hasn’t been immune. There were at least 18 large fires burning in Oregon and Washington, leading to evacuations and targeted power outages near Portland as the challenge of dry and windy conditions continued in the region.

Sprawling areas of western Oregon choked by thick smoke from the fires in recent days were expected to see improved air quality on Sunday thanks to a returning onshore flow, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

South of Portland, more than 3,000 residents were under new evacuation orders because of the 134-square-mile Cedar Creek Fire, which has burned for over a month across Lane and Deschutes counties. Firefighters were protecting remote homes in Oakridge, Westfir and surrounding mountain communities.

According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, this weekend there were more than 400 square miles of active, uncontained fires and nearly 5,000 people on the ground fighting them in the two northwestern states.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Three Icons In Women’s Sports Are Saying Goodbye

Serena Williams, Sue Bird and Allyson Felix are retiring from their respective sports and moving on to other ventures.

It’s the end of an era for women’s sports, as three icons retire from their respective games.

“Something that you can’t ignore is all the high-profile women and female athletes that are some of the greatest in the world who are all retiring at the same time,” said Melanie Anzidei, a reporter with NorthJersey.com. 

Tennis star Serena Williams, basketball legend Sue Bird, and the most-decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic history Alysson Felix are leaving behind incredible legacies that extend well beyond their sport.

“Women, people of color are always put down because of the way they look or some people’s ideas think they can’t do as much, so putting Serena as a role model and all she’s done is really good,” said Isalia Lebron, a 13-year-old tennis player.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, spent the last 27 years dominating the world of tennis, inspiring women everywhere in the process.

“My granddaughter sees Serena, she’s like, ‘Nana I can do that because Serena did it. If Serena said you could do it, anybody can do it,'” said Tiffany Martinez, a fan from Columbus, Ohio. “So, we’re here. After 33 years of being a waitress and never, ever having a weekend off, I took a whole weekend off this week just to come see her because she’s done that much for me.”

Williams, who won the Australian Open in 2017 while two months pregnant, says she is “ready for what’s next,” turning her attention now to having another child and expanding her business interests. This includes her investment firm, Serena Ventures, which aims to support women and minority-owned businesses.

“She’s kinda just an iconic athlete that kind of transcends sport in a very big way,” Anzidei said. 

Meanwhile, the WNBA is saying goodbye to arguably the most accomplished player in the game, Sue Bird. She helped lead the University of Connecticut to two NCAA titles and played on five gold medal-winning Olympic teams for the U.S.

As a pro, she helped lead the Seattle Storm to four WNBA championships over 19 seasons in the league. Off the court, she has emerged as a powerful advocate for LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Not only is she one of the greatest in the WNBA, she’s also unique because she is stepping outside of just basketball,” Anzidei said. “She’s choosing to invest in a team. In Gotham FC, she’s choosing to become a minority investor in the club, which is interesting because she announced that while she was still active in the WNBA.”

Then, with 11 Olympic medals, track superstar Allyson Felix is hanging up her spikes. Over the course of her career, Felix pushed the limits of her sport while breaking down barriers for women off the track.

“I had kind of heard the statistics of Black women being more at risk for complications, but being a professional athlete, it just…. I never imagined myself in this situation,” Felix said. “At 32 weeks, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia.”

She has advocated relentlessly for women’s issues like job and pay protections for athletes who become mothers, and for maternal health care. 

“I really want women just to be aware, to know if they are at risk, to have a plan in place and not be intimidated in doctor’s offices,” Felix said. “I know how important it is. I know how scared I was. I know how I didn’t feel prepared or educated, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.”

“What’s very unique about her is that for her, parenthood is probably the signature of one of the biggest footnotes of her entire athletic career,” Anzidei said. “It has been that something that she’s made a priority, and that’s going to change sport in tremendous ways for athletes.”

While the three athletes have crossed the finish line in their respective sports, they’re not done winning yet outside the game.

Source: newsy.com

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Search Ends For 9 People Missing In Puget Sound Floatplane Crash

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 6, 2022

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred about 30 miles northwest of Seattle.

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for nine people missing after a floatplane crashed in the waters of Puget Sound northwest of Seattle.

A nearby resident said they heard what sounded like a thunderclap at the time of the crash Sunday.

Just after noon on Monday, the Coast Guard said it was halting the search for survivors after “saturating an area” of more than 2,100 square nautical miles (nearly 2,800 square miles).

“All next of kin have been notified of this decision,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to the families, loved ones and friends of those who remain missing and the deceased.”

The body of a 10th person, an unidentified female, was recovered by a good Samaritan on Sunday after the crash was reported at 3:11 p.m., Scott Giard, director of the U.S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue for the Pacific Northwest, said at a new conference.

The identities of the victims were expected to be released Tuesday.

The Northwest Seaplanes flight left Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, and was headed to Renton Municipal Airport, the company’s base, said Coast Guard spokesperson William Colclough.

The plane went down in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton, a suburb south of Seattle.

The Coast Guard learned through the seaplane company’s owner that two Friday Harbor seaplanes took off Sunday afternoon and the owner was aboard one of the flights, Giard said. The owner told authorities he saw the other plane divert slightly off course and he tried to make radio contact but was unable to.

“Shortly after that, he noticed on his flight tracker that the flight had stopped tracking and notified authorities,” Giard said.

Officials received reports that “the aircraft dropped suddenly at a fair amount of speed and hit the water,” Giard said. “We don’t have any video or pictures of the incident as of this moment.”

There was no distress call or distress beacon from the crashing plane, he said. The aircraft has an electronic locating transmitter onboard, but they have not received any transmission.

“That is very typical in times where there is either a hard landing or a crash of an aircraft,” he said.

The cause of the crash is unknown, authorities said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday they’re sending a team of seven to investigate the crash of the DHC-3 Turbine Otter.

Coast Guard searchers found “minimal debris,” Giard said. By Monday afternoon, they had only found three to four long and narrow pieces of aluminum, very few personal items, a seat and some small pieces of foam.

Without a clear picture of the actual crash, and not knowing whether it exploded on impact or immediately sank to the sea floor, 150 to 200 feet below, it’s difficult to know what happened to the plane, he said.

Floatplanes, which have pontoons allowing them to land on water, are a common sight around Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple daily flights between the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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1 Person Dead, 9 Missing After Floatplane Crashes In Puget Sound

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 5, 2022

The single-engine plane went down in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, about 30 miles northwest of Seattle.

One person was killed and nine people remained missing, including a child, after a floatplane crashed Sunday afternoon in Puget Sound in Washington state, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The agency said in a press release the plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton, a southern suburb of Seattle.

Four Coast Guard vessels, a rescue helicopter and an aircraft were involved in the extensive search, along with nearby rescue and law enforcement agencies. Two vessels were to continue searching during the night and air patrols would resume at first light, the Coast Guard said late Sunday.

The crash was reported at 3:11 p.m. The Coast Guard said one body had been recovered and nine people were still missing. The cause of the crash is unknown, authorities said.

The plane went down in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, a single-engine propeller plane.

Floatplanes, which have pontoons allowing them to land on water, are a common sight around Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple, daily flights between the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands, a scenic archipelago northwest of Seattle that draws tourists from around the world.

These aircraft, which also fly between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, frequently travel over Seattle and land in Lake Washington, not far from the city’s iconic Space Needle.

Renton, where authorities say the flight was headed Sunday, is at the southern tip of Lake Washington, about 10 miles southeast of Seattle.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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WNBA Playoffs Head Into Semifinals With Increased Viewership

Viewership for WNBA games rose 16% compared to last year, along with increasing social media and website traffic for the league.

The WNBA playoffs are heating up semifinals kick off on Sunday. 

It’s down to the final four teams: The defending champions Chicago Sky will take on the Connecticut Sun, while top-seeded Las Vegas Aces will battle Seattle Storm.

And league officials say they’re encouraged by the points the league is scoring off the court, as well.

Officials say the 2022 season saw a slam dunk in viewership with a 16% rise over the previous year, making it the most watched regular season in 14 years at an average of roughly 379,000 viewers. Online social media engagement was up 36% from 2021, and website traffic was up 79% with 9.2 million visits in total.

“We’re going to implement a couple of things, because I feel confident in how we’re doing at the league level,” said Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner.

The 26-year-old league is known for its play that emphasizes ball handling, competitive games and the marketing of player style. 

The year began with a $75 million investment by new investors, including Nike and the NBA. 

Mid-season, Engelbert announced that the league is trying to improve the lives of the women who play the game.

“For the WNBA finals, we’re going to provide charter flights to our players,” Engelbert said. “In the spirit of finding other ways to compensate our players, we’re planning to increase the post-season bonus pools by almost 50% to a half million dollars. That would almost double the bonus reach player who wins the championship.”

These changes to the player experience come amid conversations about how WNBA players are compensated compared to their male counterparts in the NBA.

On average, NBA players are some of the highest paid athletes in the world, with the average salary for this season coming in around $7.3 million. Meanwhile, the top players in the WNBA are reportedly making roughly $230,000 a year.

The driving force behind these conversations is WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia on charges of drug smuggling. Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Moscow court in August, had been competing in a Russian league during her WNBA off season and was reportedly earning about $1 million for doing so — a salary more than four times what she was making during her WNBA season.

Looking ahead to next season, Englebert says the league plans to play an all-time high of 40 regular season games, compared to this season’s 36. In addition, the league is eyeing opportunities to expand its reach by bringing new teams to cities around the country. 

“We have a lot of interest — I’d say probably 10 or 15 cities very interested in hosting a WNBA team,” Engelbert said. “So we’re meeting here and there, I’ll call it, with interested ownership groups. We are looking for the right ownership groups, with the right commitment, the right arena situation, the right city, to support the WNBA franchise.”

It’s a move the league says is backed by data showing growing public interest, which should be kept in mind during future media negotiations.

“When you look at our viewership versus the NHL, MLS, NASCAR and things like that, some ways on cable, we are at or above them, our social platform and stuff like that,” Engelbert said. “How do we get these qualitative metrics as part of the next media deal negotiation?”

Source: newsy.com

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