NBA / Jul 17, 2009 / 1:31 pm

The WNBA vs. NBA double standard

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi

From the response generated by Diana Taurasi‘s recent scrape with the law, you’d think we were being introduced to the WNBA’s first full-blooded goon.

Taurasi was arrested in Phoenix on July 2 for an “extreme DUI,” when she was pulled over for speeding and blew a 0.17 (twice the legal limit) on the blood-alcohol test.

Happens every day in the NBA, right? Well, imagine if one of the marquee players in the men’s league — Taurasi is leading the WNBA in scoring at 20.6 points a night and is undeniably one of the faces of the women’s game — got into a similar situation shortly before the All-Star Game, and compare the reaction to this column excerpt by ESPN.com’s Mechelle Voepel:

There’s no way Taurasi should be an All-Star, and the league must take as harsh a stance as its guidelines allow in terms of punishment.

If she indeed does not play in the All-Star Game, her absence will be conspicuous. And that’s a shame, but that shame is all on Taurasi herself. She is the first truly high-profile WNBA player to get in any serious legal trouble.

Considering what a popular, visible and vocal presence she is for her franchise, the league and the sport of women’s basketball, this is as much a worst-case scenario as the WNBA hopes it ever has to deal with.

Because the real worst-case scenario, of course, is that Taurasi, if driving under the influence, could have killed or severely injured herself and others. There aren’t any excuses for that behavior, and Taurasi now has a mark on her reputation that will never come off.

Voepel goes on to further lecture Taurasi on all the obvious dangers of DUI and breaking the law, but beyond that, her column left me with some questions:

1. Is it really THAT serious?
2. What does it say about our society when a lot of people would say it isn’t that serious?
3. Are WNBA players (or women in general) held to a higher standard of behavior than NBA players (or men in general)?

A couple months ago, I was at a sneaker launch event with some other media types, and one guy who clearly wasn’t a basketball fan — I think he actually snorted when I told him I worked for Dime — got on his soapbox about the NBA and its “thug” players. With a straight face, this guy suggested that when an NBA player gets arrested, he should have his salary revoked and should be kicked out of the League. For life. Unless, he added, “It’s something minor like drunk driving or, like, a domestic dispute.”

So even this guy who wants to throw half the NBA in jail doesn’t consider DUI a major violation, probably not worthy of costing someone an All-Star spot or deserving of a huge suspension. The last player to get a DUI that comes to mind is Zach Randolph, and he was suspended for a game or two by the Clippers. And he’s one of those players with a bad reputation that precedes him.

In Taurasi’s case, this is the first such incident I’ve heard of on her rap sheet. Voepel highlights that Taurasi is a role model and a standard-bearer for the WNBA, so her punishment should be more harsh. It’s also implied — though not directly stated — that with a fledging league like the WNBA where credibility is always a battle, they can’t afford to have players (especially high-profile players) doing anything that would make negative headlines.

So maybe that’s it: The NBA is established enough that one player getting in trouble doesn’t reflect on the entire league, and will soon by overshadowed by another story anyway.

But I think it’s deeper than that. Forget WNBA vs. NBA; this is a man vs. woman issue. In that same “boys will be boys” justification mindset, in the eyes of public opinion, males have more leeway to get in trouble and basically act like immature guys. For male athletes, whether it’s misdemeanor crimes, on-court brawls, incessantly arguing with refs, even just screaming after a big play, it’s not only more accepted — it’s expected.

Remember how shocked (and/or amused) everyone was when there was a WNBA on-court brawl last year? The bigger surprise to me was that it somehow took 10-plus years for the WNBA to even have a brawl in the first place. Although women are (stereotypically) supposed to be more emotional than men, they’re not supposed to be as aggressive and competitive. So when they act like stereotypical men, the double standard shows itself.

They’re telling us to Expect Great, but in every physical aspect of the game, we’ve been conditioned to expect less. When it comes to off-court behavior, however, “Expect Great” apparently translates to “Expect Perfection.”

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    Who cares???

  • soapbox

    the guy preaching about the NBA’s “thugs”, probably used to get drunk and drive over to his girlfriend’s place and beat her…thats the only reason DWI and domestic dispute are “minor” offenses to him.

  • Patrick

    This could alienate and offend The fan.

  • Yoooo

    I kinda disagree with you bruh. Negative press is actually GOOD press (this world we live in is ass backwards)… This lady wasnt writing articles about Taurasi when she was out there doing charity work. Now a bad incident happens and Taurasi becomes a hot topic, and this is probably the Kobe Bryant of the WNBA we’re talking about. Might as well try to do something to bring SOME kind of light to the league, maybe a brawl every now and then would actually help out the league. Personally, I dont mind watching them, I think they’re a lot better than people even know. But their games are never aired, and you never see highlights on ESPN. Womens College Basketball gets WAY more love than the WNBA… I’d rather watch the WNBA over hockey, baseball, golf and tennis ANY DAY. ESPN has more bowling/fishing shows than WNBA games

  • dk

    It is a serious crime and she will pay the reprucussions, bottom line. Whether she owes her fans an apology is up to her. Her not playing in a All Star game is ridiculous unless of course shes fired..

  • dk

    @3 In this day and age a little girl on girl is always good for ratings.

  • Mack Brownee

    dyking and drinking is not safe

  • Sam I Am

    DUIs are wrong.you saw what happened with the guy who killed the guy a couple months ago in the NFL.

    I think that Diana is getting a bum wrap for being singled out but its tru that her and the bums in the NBA need to be punished for being so damn stupid to drink & drive.

    I dont know why the NBA doesn’t go harder on dudes who drink and get behind the wheel. They might as well be carrying a loaded gun and have an itchy trigger finger.

    stupid athletes thinkin they are above the rest

  • karizmatic

    I think it has to do with all these factors. The WNBA is a fledgling league that really can’t afford to have players mess up, lest that become the image of the league. The players know that and have to take on that extra responsibility if the league is to survive. In addition it is a bit of a double standard. The article is harsh, but then anytime an NBA player does something even if it is a DUI you can find an article just as harsh somewhere about the “thug culture” that pervades the league.

    To answer you questions:

    1.A DUI IS THAT SERIOUS, people are killed by drunk drivers at an alarming rate and there should always be people who point out how serious an offense it is.

    2. It doesn’t say much about our society that we don’t take it seriously, there are several types of behaviors that human beings don’t take serious that could lead to damage to oneself or others. Drunk driving being among them.

  • Oscarisalakerfan

    i cosign with Youngfed

  • Rafa23

    serious DUI?
    0.17? thats NOTHING:absolutely nothing. there are other countries where 0.2 isn’t even a crime. now I dont want to play down a DUI, there are people dying because of it and it should be punished. but that starts when you are really affected by the alcohol. 0.17 are probably 2 beers. there is no way she made other or worse decisions because of 0.17.

  • http://hornetshype.com ticktock6

    Well put, especially the last three paragraphs. It’s absolutely a double standard. People are people. A DUI is a DUI. It’s just that society is for some reason still conditioned to be “shocked” that women drink and go out and are sexual… in other words, do things that go against the ideal of the perfect innocent woman who needs to be “protected.”

  • Vinny

    Austin- this ‘media type’ let me guess old white guy?
    Iwould be curious to hear his comparsion between the ‘thug’ nba and professional hockey?

  • dk

    @11 Your a fucking moron, do some research before you start spewing that philth out your mouth. You are affected by alcohol after 2 drinks within an hour and .17 is a helluva lot more than two drinks.

  • netstar

    now have diana taurasi say something like josh howard did with weed or the national anthem…. she would never play in the l again, while josh howard got off scot free besides a little bad publicity

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs before Slamball

    It actually is serious..cuz look at what happens…look at the whole donte stallworth situation…Drinkers don’t think driving drunk is a big deal but anyone whose lost someone to a drunk driver thinks it is.

    @ticktock, theres a huge differnce between being “sexual” and bein a whore lol…and tons of chicks now days are famous just for bein hoes coug cough megan fox, kim kardashian, new york cough cough…so women can’t really complain.

  • shake&bake

    What the hell is the WNBA?

  • bballinca

    #11 you have no clue. A .17 is like 5+ drinks in one hour. .08 which is the current legal limit is rather tame compared to most countries. Some even have zero tolerance when behind the wheel.

  • That’s whats up

    defending post 11

    he feels two beers are two OE 40’s

    so that makes sense

  • Detroit Dave


  • Phil B

    the US doesn’t treat drinking and driving as a very serious crime. c’mon, we all know people who have been busted. and we shouldn’t. it’s stupid. it shouldn’t happen and there should be much stiffer repercussions.

  • Rafa23

    ok, maybe 2 drinks was a bit exaggerated. but you really wanna tell me she was drunk and could make poor decisions because of 0.17? dont think so.
    btw, most countries have 0.2 or 0.5. and your war friends from great britain even have 0.8.

  • sh!tfaced

    this Voepel “dude” – yeah she looks like a dude – is just jealous, just like the DUI-salary guy is jealous, just because they live the dream doesn’t mean they don’t have to make mistakes….

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    My biggest problem with women is that they bitch and moan about equality in sports, how they deserve to have their own leagues, that it would not be fair if they didn’t have them–but never support them.

    A DUI without a victim is a mistake that many Americans face–get over it. Chuck got one, and TNT laid him off for a few months. The bigger story here is that Taurasi can go to prison for this because AZ is all about locking people up. For real–1st DUI can put a person in prison in Arizona. Very least–10 days with Sheriff Joe. And Taurasi won’t be paid for her absence. That’s enough.

    Oh, and no one should be held more accountable than average citizens just because of their profile or position in life. Everyone should get the same sentence, a mandatory minimum that takes cash out their pocket. Not that the DUI is gonna hurt a pro athlete, but averaging out at $10,000 after all the classes and court costs hits most peoples pockets hard. Forget about “thug” images–law enforcement should be about justice and fairness, not upholding white ideas of how people should walk, talk, and dress.

  • bballinca

    Rafe23 you have got to be the dumbest person on this board (and that is saying something) Learn the proper use of a decimal point. Most countries have .02 or .05 not .2 or .5!

    I suggest you read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol_content

  • Dukesman2000

    That is the problem with this society. Everyone wants to be everybody else’s parents. They are the moral compass that every should follow they are holier than thou and they know what is best for everybody. Give me a break. This heifer is acting as if she has never drunk and glass of wine and got behind the wheel of her vehicle. If she got pulled over she’s be charged with DUI.

  • Ace

    So she got suspended for her DUI she will move on and continue to be a success and hopefully no more drinking and driving. If I had to play her I would use this to my advantage…pull a Rodman and run my mouth to her while making cracks about drinking and not being able to drive. If she’s having an off night that’s a major plus for the other team. The WNBA likes to keep this image of the players being hetero and perfect role models that do no wrong ever. That and the lie they keep telling about how the womens game doesn’t need to play above the rim b/c that’s not our style BS. They have several players in the league who can dunk, and should start and stop will all the “womens game” crap and dunk the darn ball (Fowles, CP3, Nolan, Angel, Snow, Leslie, etc, etc.)

  • shake&bake

    @22 – you have a chance of dying from alcohol poisoning around .4 so a legal limit to drive of .2 or .5 wouldn’t make too much sense.

  • Mack Brownee

    pussy taste so much better when you’re drunk

  • Diego

    Concur with dk @ post 5 and sans @ 24.

    The U.S. does take dui seriously, and if you are driving a car and you are over the limit and someone gets killed you generally are in a hell of a lot of trouble–regardless if indeed you actually were at fault in the accident. (The leniency shown that NFL player recently seems to me likely heavily influenced by the lawyering of the rich and the leniency generally bestowed upon celebs–unless they are quarterbacks fighting dogs.)

    Nice column AB; stupid column by Mechelle Voepel.

  • Tim

    i’ve never heard anyone charged with extreme DUI…i think that extreme part is what’s making ppl go crazy.

  • dk

    You have 0 peripheral vision at .17, ask Stallworth.

  • http://www.nba.com smoove chips

    extreme DUI.now that’s ‘sic’ funny.never heard of that

    serious issue but reveals an obvious truth.nobody cares bout the WNBA.few watch the games,fewer know it exists.

    wish they could dunk,posterize,something,anything.Loser has to make out with the winners last two benchwarmers?their fundamentals are on point.Games are just really..boring.

    think the spurs(off the top) ok,then nobody allowed to dunk,and all the players given sedatives before games,multiply that by 30,and then have these cats have the most decent behavior on and offcourt in contact pro sports.your new NBA?!

    that’s when I start watching hockey n nascar

  • Ender

    On a related topic I think the NBA drug policy is a joke. I think they never test the top players in an effort of “superstar treatment” and avoiding bad PR. I think if the NBA had a testing policy similar to the “tour de France” you would see similar results. The testing policy hasn’t changed since 1991, but the doping methods sure have.

    On the topic of drunk WNBA players, what is the WNBA?

  • http://hornetshype.com ticktock6

    @ #16

    @ticktock, theres a huge differnce between being “sexual” and bein a whore lol…and tons of chicks now days are famous just for bein hoes coug cough megan fox, kim kardashian, new york cough cough…so women can’t really complain.

    Excuse me? You basically just reinforced everything I said! Who was being a “whore” in this post? Who even mentioned it? Are men’s sexual preferences/conquests even talked about/known about/put out there as “newsworthy”? No. Megan Fox is famous for being an ACTRESS. But you just called her a whore. What am I missing here?

    Give me a break.

  • http://hornetshype.com ticktock6

    I think it’s hilarious that because MEN want to sleep with a WOMAN that makes *her* a whore somehow.

  • http://myspace.com/ferrel_gangsta ferrel

    Who cares its the wnba once her team makes the playoffs everyone will bow down to her