Minnesota Lynx forward Natalie Achonwa has played in the WNBA since 2015, but during her team’s June 6 game against the Atlanta Dream, her name was misspelled in a graphic on The Sports Network’s broadcast.
“Damn, don’t even have to worry about the pronunciation…” Achonwa wrote on Twitter. “Seven years in the league and I can’t even get my last name [spelled] right.”
The Lynx veteran is not the only player who has had issues with her name this season, and the Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike posted multiple slides to her Instagram story to showcase the pattern of misspellings and mispronunciations by announcers and broadcasters.
Ogwumike highlighted complaints posted to Twitter by Achonwa, New York Liberty rookie Michaela Onyenwere, Dallas Wings star Arike Ogunbowale and Chicago Sky forward Astou Ndour. She captioned each image, “What’s the common denominator…?”
The examples Ogwumike showcased were the league's athletes of color and international players. All the players are Black. Ndour was born in Senegal, and Achonwa is from Canada.
There are also examples beyond those that made the Instagram story thread. Natisha Hiedeman and Dijonai Carringtonof the Connecticut Sun have expressed frustration with mispronunciations this season, and Atlanta Dream rookie Aari McDonald had her first name mispronounced so often during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament that her backdrop on draft night included a neon sign of the phonetic spelling.
WNBA teams provide pronunciation guides for each players’ name, so it is unclear why errors have been so prevalent. Ogwumike is the president of the WNBA Players’ Association, so her voice is an important one in advocating for change within the league.
“I don’t see as many missteps pronouncing names of players with a more European name…” Ogwumike wrote on her Instagram story. “And I hope I don’t have to go on the record because I had this exact conversation with the media last year.”
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