The First New WNBA Team In Years Has Revealed Its Name

The San Francisco Bay Area’s new WNBA team revealed itself Tuesday as the Golden State Valkyries, a name originating from Norse mythology about flying female warriors.

It’s a fitting name for the women’s expansion to the Golden State Warriors, the NBA team that’s played in the Bay Area since 1962. The Valkyries are set to start playing in San Francisco next May, making them the 13th WNBA team and the first professional women’s basketball team to launch in the U.S. since 2018. This also marks the first time an NBA team has expanded to include a women’s team since 2008.

Bay Area-born singer Kehlani narrated the official video introducing the team’s name and branding, saying, “This is where legends take flight, but our story has yet to be written.”

Valkyries are “a host of warrior women who are fearless and unwavering ― flying through air and sea alike,” the team said in a news release Tuesday. The team color, “Valkyrie violet,” is a symbol of “power, ambition, nobility, and women’s empowerment,” the statement said.

The team logo is a V shape, representing both the name and “the unity of a group of Valkyries in flight.” It features the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, honoring the Golden State franchise’s ties to both cities.

“Women’s sports fans demand ― and deserve ― authenticity and a commitment to greatness, two characteristics that the Warriors organization has strongly demonstrated,” team President Jess Smith said when her hiring was announced in January.

More than 7,500 people have already put down deposits for season tickets, the team said Tuesday.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wore Valkyries gear in a photo shared on his team’s social media. Last month, Kerr said that, like millions of others, he’d been closely watching the women’s NCAA March Madness games.

“I’ve been locked in on the women’s tournament. The games have been fantastic,” he said at a news conference.

Interest in women’s basketball, both at the collegiate and professional level, is higher than ever. Last month, viewership for the women’s NCAA title game surpassed the men’s championship for the first time, drawing nearly 19 million viewers. That’s up an eye-popping 90% from last year’s audience size. The college season made massive stars out of 22-year-olds Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, who were both drafted into the WNBA last month.

Broadcasts of that draft averaged a record 24.7 million viewers, The Athletic reported, marking a 307% increase from last year’s event and making it the single most-viewed WNBA telecast in 24 years. That may be a sign of more record-breaking viewership stats to come this season, which kicked off the same day the Valkyries announced their name.

The flurry around women’s basketball has added more fuel to the conversation about sports’ gender pay gap. Fans and critics pointed out that Clark’s and Reese’s WNBA salaries, which are both less than $77,000 a year, amount to 2% of the median NBA player’s salary.

Ohemaa Nyanin is named the general manager of the WNBA Golden State team at a news conference earlier this month.
Ohemaa Nyanin is named the general manager of the WNBA Golden State team at a news conference earlier this month. San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The outrage even prompted a comment from President Joe Biden.

“Women in sports continue to push new boundaries and inspire us all,” he wrote on social media on April 16. “But right now we’re seeing that even if you’re the best, women are not paid their fair share. It’s time that we give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons and ensure women are paid what they deserve.”

There’s some hope of that becoming a reality. In 2022, both the U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams signed a collective bargaining agreement stating that the two teams would split all the prize money awarded at various stages of their respective World Cups. The development was acknowledged as a massive win for pay equity in sports as the total prize money FIFA offered in the men’s World Cup in 2022 was $440 million, compared with the $150 million offered in the women’s tournament last year.