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WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones says women's hoops endorsements about 'popularity contest and politics'

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Jonquel Jones earned the 2021 WNBA MVP award as a near-unanimous choice following a dominant season by the Connecticut Sun forward. Not to mention her "Mother of Dragons" success with her national team at EuroBasket.

The marketing opportunities from being named the best have not followed, though. Unlike her recent NBA counterpart, the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, there aren't big-money deals with Nike or Budweiser. Nor has she had the marketing or deal opportunities of fellow WNBA stars.

In a tweet on Friday, she called it "all a popularity contest and politics in [women's basketball]."

Jones, 28, wrote in three tweets:

"It's all a popularity contest and politics in [women's basketball]. In [men's basketball] you just gottah [sic] be the best. In [women's basketball] you gottah [sic] be the best player, best looking, most marketable, most IG followers, just to sit at the endorsement table. Thank God for [playing] overseas because my bag would've been fumbled.

"I’m glad they pay me what I’m worth and see the value in me simply being one of the best at my craft.

"Not to mention me being a black lesbian woman. Lord the seats disappearing from the table as I speak."

Female players can make considerably more money playing for certain overseas clubs. Jones re-signed with the Sun as an unrestricted free agent. She will reportedly make a base annual salary of $205,000 for the 2022 WNBA season.

Female athletes fight for piece of marketing pie

Jonquel Jones
Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun called out endorsement concerns on Twitter. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Female athletes have largely been left out of marketing and endorsement opportunities. Less than 1% of all sports sponsorship money goes toward women's sports. And there are components that play into that such as race, gender orientation and beauty standards.

Certain WNBA players have large national endorsement deals. Adidas released a signature shoe, a rarity for women's athletes, early in Candace Parker's career and recently unveiled the "Ace" signature collection. It also grew its WNBA player contingent last year. Puma is working on a signature shoe for Breanna Stewart that the two-time champion said will likely be released in August.

They are two of the most well-known and popular WNBA players while also being two of the best in the world. Each has won a championship within the past two seasons. But it could be argued their colleges (Tennessee for Parker, Connecticut for Stewart) helped them each gain that initial popularity that turned into mass marketability and then headline endorsement deals. Both married their wives and had children (or have a child on the way in Parker's case) in recent years, well after their marketability was established.

Jones, a native of the Bahamas, is in a smaller market — though one highly invested in women's basketball — and attended George Washington.

Businesses are beginning to acknowledge the investment in women's sports with player and league endorsement deals. The interest is growing, but it is slow improvement and there are still concerns.