Credit: Courtesy of Oakland Voices

This story was produced by Oakland Voices, a nine-month program led by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education that trains Oakland residents to tell the stories of their neighborhoods.

Talk of a Women’s National Basketball Association team coming to Oakland is gaining steam, so Oakland Voices correspondents asked residents what they think of a WNBA team potentially calling Oakland home. Would they support a team coming here and bring their families and friends to games? What would a rejuvenated Coliseum area look like?

The African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) has stated its desire to bring a WNBA team to Oakland, with former player Alana Beard leading the effort. In February, the city of Oakland announced a deal with the group to move forward. The project still has a long way to go. But current plans include housing, a convention center, a hotel, and education programs that would cost upwards of $5 billion. 

Oakland athletes recently proved that girls and women athletes can draw a crowd and are the best in their field. The Oakland Tech girls basketball team — aka the “Lady Bulldogs”—won their third straight state championship title on Friday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

Dr. Alexis Gray-Lawson, athletic director at Oakland Technical High School and former WNBA player

An African American coach/leader wearing maroon stands inside colorful gym and wearing a baseball cap backwards
Dr. Alexis Gray-Lawson. Photo by Tony Daquipa.

As a student-athlete, Lawson led the Oakland Tech girls basketball team to back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. in 2004 and 2005.

“It would mean the world. Our kids are fantastic. It would be great for them to be able to feel and touch [professional basketball]. Right now, they gotta go to L.A. to see a game. To be able to dream about doing it, and to be able to dream about doing it here, it would mean the world.”

Gray-Lawson has been advocating for a WNBA team in Oakland for years, and has been speaking publicly in support of the current AASEG bid. “I’m excited to be a part of it,” she told Oakland Voices.

Erika Leon, Fruitvale resident

A Latina woman smiles for selfie
Ericka Leon. Photo courtesy of Leon.

“My perspective on the possibility of a WNBA team coming to Oakland is, it’s an amazing idea because we need more female athlete[s] representing Oakland. Many women are gifted in the sport and want to show the world it, but there is a limit to what they can display because there is no opportunity. I support this because the athletic leagues are very representative of men and cater toward men. In comparison, women’s leagues do not receive the same representation or platform.

“My thoughts on the discussions about the negotiations is I like it, because the Coliseum and Ring Center—Oracle for the real ones—is pretty much abandoned ever since the Warriors left Oakland to San Francisco. There isn’t much activity going on in that area and I believe it would bring life back to it.”

Johnny Nguyen, East Oakland Resident

A Vietnamese American man wears black baseball cap and sunglasses sits outside at table
Johnny Nguyen. Photo courtesy of Nguyen.

“I would love to see a WNBA team in Oakland and would take my family and friends to go see them! [I’m] in full support because it would be a great family outing to attend, inspirational for young girls and kids of the city, and would provide revenue. I think it is a great thing [to revamp the Coliseum site] and I hope they succeed!”

Aaliyah, works in East Oakland

A Latina woman wearing a high ponytail sits behind a table with phones behind her
Aaliyah, who works in East Oakland. Photo by Tonya Shipp.

“I think having the WNBA in Oakland would be very exciting, very fun. I would definitely love to come watch them. I live in Hayward so I’m not too far and I’d definitely come. We’re always trying to find new events to attend on days off, time off, something fun and different. [I’d be] excited to see them and see what they bring.”

Jorge Palma, East Oakland resident

A young Latino man wearing a khaki jacket takes selfie
Jorge Palma. Photo courtesy of Palma.

“Bringing a WNBA team over to Oakland would be a good idea since it would bring attention and the possibilities of scholarships and internships [for academic scholars]. It could even give [Oaklanders] someone to look up to.

“The purchase of the Coliseum [site] can go both ways. I’d love to see it prosper and bring more to the economy in that area, but the Coliseum is history itself so it’s one of Oakland’s landmarks. Nowadays, affordable housing isn’t so ‘affordable’ for everyone, so if they could get around that and actually make it affordable, then that would be great. Seeing they want to host sports teams and events, I’m afraid that might not be the case.”

Daniel, Oakland youth

Three young African American kids pose for photo outside in the evening.
From left: Oakland residents Sarah, Daniel, and Destiny. Photo by Tonya Shipp.

“I have no problem with women playing in the NBA. I like all basketball teams and play basketball at my neighborhood park.”

Benjamin Sr., Oakland father

“I feel it would be good for the WNBA to come to Oakland!”

Laquita, East Oakland resident

“It would be beautiful and wonderful to have the WNBA in Oakland. Women are striding for what they want to do.”

Ryan Barba is an Oakland native who is following his passion of writing. It has lead to his desire to further his knowledge and insight in this profession by learning and sharing with others. Ryan attended primary and secondary schools in Oakland and has ties to various community outreach programs throughout the East Bay.

Tony Daquipa is a dad, bureaucrat, PTA officer, photographer, urban bicyclist, grumpy old man, and preserver of history.

Tonya Shipp is a mother of two and avid supporter of education and development. For the past ten years, she has been freelancing and working through staffing agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area but recently began as Program Aide at Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency. She obtained an associate’s degree in the social sciences from Laney College and is one class shy of receiving a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She also served eight years in the Army Reserves before being honorably discharged. She volunteers regularly at the events and offices of non-profits. Having experienced extensive periods of homelessness, unemployment and being without dental coverage is a strong advocate for the poor.