Last season was played in a bubble environment — fondly referred to as the “wubble” — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., because of the pandemic. This season will be played in teams’ home cities, some with a limited number of fans, in accordance with local health officials’ recommendations.
The season tips off on May 14, when the Liberty host the Indiana Fever at Barclays Center. Each team will play 32 games in the regular season, down from the originally planned 36, with reduced travel because of the pandemic. The league, which has been ahead of others in discussions about social justice, plans to continue those efforts this season, W.N.B.A. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters on Tuesday.
“The players want to be about change, and they want to have their hand in that change,” she said. “Whether it’s civic engagement or voting rights or health equity or other issues that many of them are passionate about, I really look forward to seeing what they do this year and handling any crises that come our way.”
Engelbert also said that the league was open to expanding, as women’s sports have gained more attention in recent years. Viewership of the 2020 W.N.B.A. finals was up 15 percent year over year, according to ESPN. The draft came as the spotlight had turned toward inequities between men’s and women’s athletics, with a focus on differences in facilities, testing and meals at the men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.