Kia Nurse hopes Raptors' all-women broadcast could mirror WNBA, inspire next generation
WNBA player, commentator hopes first-of-its-kind production resonates with young Canadian women
If they see it, they can be it.
That's the notion Canadian WNBA player and TSN commentator Kia Nurse hopes will inspire young women as the NBA's first all-women broadcast team prepares to call the Raptors' game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday.
Nurse hopes the influence of the first-of-its kind broadcast is similar to what she's experienced recently as a player for the Women's National Basketball Association, a league that's had a huge impact with its social activism.
Some examples include their efforts to help the Democrats win a Senate seat in Georgia and the league's #SayHerName campaign that created awareness about the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Maya Moore, one the WNBA's most famous players, took a sabbatical from her basketball career to help free a wrongfully convicted man who is now her husband.
"I think people are starting to see how much of an impact we're having. I mean, we helped flip the Senate," Nurse told CBC Sports, referring to the work players did to encourage Georgians to vote specifically for Democrat Raphael Warnock and against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the former owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream who spoke out against Black Lives Matter.
The all-women's broadcast could have the same kind of impact, said Nurse, the 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., who played last season with the WNBA's New York Liberty and was recently traded to the Phoenix Mercury.
"You have women who are doing an incredible job across different industries and different nations ... coming together to show you guys what we've been working on, even though it hasn't been in the spotlight."
March 24th, 2021, we watch history. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/InternationalWomensDay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#InternationalWomensDay</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeTheNorth</a> <a href="https://t.co/fhJyT3dqQx">pic.twitter.com/fhJyT3dqQx</a>—@Raptors
Nurse will work as a colour analyst for the game alongside play-by-play woman Meghan McPeak, who works for CBC Sports as well as in the booth for the WNBA's Washington Mystics and the G League's Capital City Go-Go.
TSN's Kayla Grey will handle sideline reporting duties, while SportsCentre host Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert, an analyst for Raptors 905, will pair up for the in-game studio show.
Paving the way for the next generation
Nurse, who works as a TSN analyst during the WNBA off-season, says the broadcast will provide a template for young women to see what's possible in a male-dominated sport and media industry.
"It wasn't until I went to the U.S. one day and saw Maya Moore on television, I thought, 'Oh, this would be cool to play in like a national championship and to play at UConn and whatnot,' " Nurse said.
McPeak echoed the sentiment on a recent episode of North Courts, a CBC Sports basketball show.
"That's something that I never had growing up, so the fact that myself, Kia and Kayla can give that to little Black girls that look like us, that's a fantastic feeling," McPeak said.
"Representation matters and little girls will be able to see us doing what we do and might think that they can do it as well."
As the women call an important Raptors game against a top-tier team the night before the NBA trade deadline, Nurse hopes it will provide a platform to continue speaking out in the name of change — just as she did last summer in the WNBA.
WATCH | McPeak discusses historic broadcast on North Courts:
"We took to the court with the understanding that no matter what anybody was going to say about us ... some people were going to like what we had to say and some people weren't," Nurse said.
"There's a fine line between right and wrong. And we knew what was right."
Providing inspiration for NCAA women's athletes
To that end, after players in the NCAA women's March Madness tournament used social media to expose how inferior their weight room setup was compared to the men's teams, NCAA staff revamped the underwhelming setup with more equipment and machines.
Other inequities, such as unequal COVID-19 testing and a lack of camera exposure, are also coming to light.
Nurse was part of four Final Four teams with the University of Connecticut, and though she says she never had an issue with weight rooms specifically, she also never played the tournament in a bubble due to a pandemic. She said she's confused as to how the unequal set-up happened, but isn't surprised that it did.
"I'm proud of the young women who are at the tournament who took to social media and stood up for themselves," Nurse said.
"I'm proud of everybody who rallied around them and continued to make it loud enough that the NCAA listened right away. But it shouldn't have happened in the first place."
<a href="https://twitter.com/ncaawbb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ncaawbb</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NCAA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ncaa</a> this needs to be addressed. These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities. <br><br>3 weeks in a bubble and no access to DBs > 30’s until the sweet 16? <br><br>In a year defined by a fight for equality this is a chance to have a conversation and get better. <a href="https://t.co/jFQVv1PlUt">pic.twitter.com/jFQVv1PlUt</a>—@alikershner
Social media is powerful. Thank you for all of y’all’s support <a href="https://t.co/YR5ZNwywv6">pic.twitter.com/YR5ZNwywv6</a>—@sedonaprince_
Nurse hopes that she and her fellow WNBA players can provide inspiration for today's college athletes to continue to find their own voices and feel empowered to speak out.
"Because they know that if they're working toward a league like the WNBA, then they'll still have a voice when they get there."
Meanwhile, Canadian national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis said television broadcasts like Wednesday's should become the norm.
"All these steps along the way, they're massive, right? They shouldn't be, but they are," she said. "The fact that we're going to have an all-female broadcast crew just speaks to how far we've come."
A role model on the court and in the booth
Nurse spoke to CBC Sports as part of her partnership with Tangerine Bank, which committed $15,000 to support Kia Nurse Elite, her Nike-backed youth basketball program.
When she was younger, Nurse said scheduling didn't allow her to play provincially, nationally, and with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in the U.S. all at once. With the Elite program, she's aiming to change that while providing young Canadian female basketball players the support they need.
"Every door that I've had opened up in my life has been a direct result of being able to play basketball and to playing at a high level in the community that I was a part of growing up."
As a player, Nurse is used to serving as a role model for young Canadian basketball fans. On Wednesday, she'll continue to influence the next generation — but this time, from the booth.
"Hopefully, if there are young women who are watching the game with their families, which I'm sure they are, seeing more people that look like them, maybe one of us resonates with them. And that's all that matters in this case."