The WNBA logo.

For an athlete, having their name pronounced incorrectly on either an in-arena feed (where they can hear it live) or on a broadcast feed (where they find out about it later) can be quite a blow. It’s maybe particularly notable in the professional ranks, where athletes have worked long and hard to get there, only to have their names still not recognized properly. Many leagues have tried to prevent this with the issuing of pronunciation guides to announcers, but that doesn’t always work perfectly. And there seems to be a particular issue with that at the moment in the WNBA, as Britni de la Cretaz relays in a piece for Vice:

This season, the WNBA is more accessible than ever before, with more than 100 nationally televised games.

…But as visibility increases, so does attention on the broadcasters (the people whose voices narrate the game to television viewers) and the announcers (who call the plays over the arena speakers for fans in attendance). And that spotlight has revealed a problem: the consistent inability—or unwillingness—of broadcasters and announcers to pronounce players’ names correctly.

It’s unclear why this keeps happening. Teams provide pronunciation guides for all their players, and there are only 144 names to learn.

…A CBS broadcast called the Las Vegas Aces’ Dearica Hamby “Erica Camby;” the Indiana Fever broadcast airing on CBS Sports Network on May 16 confused New York Liberty players Sami Whitcomb and Kylee Shook (because, I guess, both have long blonde hair). During one game I watched, a broadcaster butchered Betnijah Laney’s name so badly it was unrecognizable. And then there is poor Astou Ndour-Fall, whose name is pronounced differently on every broadcast but never the way she says it herself

…The Connecticut Sun’s social media account tweeted feedback directed at Anne Marie Anderson and Carolyn Peck, the Las Vegas Aces broadcast team, during their May 23 game: “Hey @LVAces broadcast, It’s NA-TEE-SHA. Not Natasha. Can you please correct?” And that wasn’t the only error during that game; the broadcasters also mixed up players, and they didn’t even get the team name right, repeatedly calling them the “Suns” (the name of the Phoenix NBA team). The Sun’s Twitter bio currently reads, “Hi, new friends! It’s Sun. Just Sun. Singular.”

The whole piece is worth a read for an in-depth look at many of these announcing issues. And it’s a good reminder that just issuing pronunciation guides isn’t always enough; de la Cretaz notes that some teams in other sports have gone farther, including the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team providing audio files of each player saying how they want their name pronounced.

But whether solutions come from approaches like Minnesota’s, or from paying more attention paid to the currently-issued guides, there definitely seems to be room for improvement here. It’s certainly notable that several current players aren’t happy with how their names are being pronounced both in-arena and on broadcasts. And that suggests that there should be some changes ahead.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.