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Coinbase on Thursday deepened its ties to the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), and many basketball fans were far from excited about the news.
The U.S. crypto brokerage, rapidly inking more sponsorships across pro sports, already became the official cryptocurrency platform of the NBA and WNBA last October. Now it has added partnerships with the WNBA’s player union (WNBPA), the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty, and two of the league’s stars, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd.
As part of the deal, every WNBA player will be set up with a Coinbase wallet. The WNBA and Coinbase jointly held a “Crypto 101” Twitter Space today, where New York Liberty guard Betnijah Laney joined two employees from Coinbase’s training team to discuss crypto from a beginner’s point of view.
But fans on Twitter aren’t pleased by any of this.
Coinbase’s announcement tweet on Thursday afternoon was close to getting ratio’d with replies, most of them negative, ranging from cynical to outright angry—with many calling crypto a “scam,” “gross,” or a “ponzi scheme,” and some expressing concerns about Coinbase’s business in light of its 70% stock price dip this year. Others took the news as a chance to critique the WNBA itself.
One of the most popular negative tweets slammed the WNBA for “framing their dumb sponsored crypto chat as female empowerment.”
I hate that the WNBA is framing their dumb sponsored crypto chat as female empowerment
— no its becky (@robocoko) May 19, 2022
One Seattle Storm fan replied to the team’s tweet of the news by citing environmental concerns with Bitcoin: “This feels kinda gross from a team whose home venue is literally called the climate pledge arena.” Sue Bird herself got a fan reply that said, "Crypto is not good, it exploits womens sports and the environment."
And then there were the crypto fans who sneered at the partnership. As one Twitter user wrote: “The dudes in the comments telling the crypto company they're too good for women's sports y'all are pushing me into alcoholism.” Another called the partnership “The perfect intersection of crypto dudes hating this because they don’t like the WNBA and WNBA fans not liking this because it’s crypto.”
Crypto sponsorships or ads have been mocked before, of course. Recall Crypto.com’s much-maligned TV ad with Matt Damon and its tagline, “Fortune favors the brave.” But you can blame the crypto market’s brutal crash this month for likely adding fuel to the anti-crypto fire: “So sad to see the whole league endorse this,” one fan tweeted. “I hope y’all were smart enough to get paid in dollars and not crypto, at least.” Another fan echoed, "I really, really hope that the W were smart enough to get the sponsorship funds up front and in real money rather than in crypto."
Thought the idea was we paid the WNBA more and not less https://t.co/ZIoXd3Qkwo
— Gal Pal Sports (@GalPalSports) May 19, 2022
“Crypto is crashing and sports leagues [are] still getting attached to them, hope they get all the money upfront,” an NBA fan said. Another replied to ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, “Didn’t they just lose all their money?”
Others reasoned that a crypto deal at this time may be unwise for the WNBA, which itself has not always been in a strong economic position. (The league raised $75 million in fresh capital in February, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver previously said the WNBA has been losing $10 million a year since 1997.)
“WNBA is still hemorrhaging money so now they need to scam people,” a fan said.
Of course, the WNBA isn’t the only sports organization getting negative fan response for a crypto partnership amid the market downturn. The Washington Nationals baseball team tweeted out a tone-deaf Terra-sponsored crypto post last week just as the Terra ecosystem was going up in flames.
The sports deals are not likely to stop, even if we’ve arrived at another Crypto Winter: Coinbase, FTX, Crypto.com, and other crypto companies are spending big marketing dollars on sports in a closely-watched race for brand awareness and new customers.