The New York Liberty will be the first professional sports...

The New York Liberty will be the first professional sports team to feature a resort casino's branding on its jerseys. (May 16, 2010) Credit: Joe Epstein

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a veteran of 11 WNBA seasons and six teams, looked down at the unfamiliar name across her chest Wednesday and pronounced herself pleased.

"It's cool for me; I like it," she said of the Foxwoods Resort Casino logo in a place where "Liberty" or "New York" once would have been.

"It means there are people out there who believe in the WNBA, and it's important for us to get national, premier sponsors like Foxwoods on our jerseys. If that's what they need, so be it. I love it."

The Liberty's announcement that a sponsor would be featured on its uniforms made it the fourth WNBA team to do so, joining Phoenix (LifeLock), Los Angeles (Farmers Insurance) and Seattle (Bing).

It is a common practice in pro sports overseas but so far in the United States it mostly has been limited to Major League Soccer and the WNBA. (The Giants and Jets wear sponsors' patches on practice jerseys.)

"We are looking for ways to make partnerships that allow companies to really distinguish themselves in ways that they couldn't in other properties," WNBA president Donna Orender said.

Foxwoods becomes the first casino resort with its logo on an American pro sports jersey. Is the league comfortable with that?

Orender said the issue largely was settled when the Connecticut Sun - which is owned by and plays at the Mohegan Sun casino - joined the league in 2003.

"I think we jumped that hurdle when the Mohegan Sun became part of the WNBA family," she said. "They have become enormously successful."

The Liberty will debut its new uniforms at the Sun Friday. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are rivals in the casino business, which is part of Foxwoods' motivation for getting into the WNBA game.

"You've been watching endorsements on soccer jerseys forever, and jockeys and all that," said coach Anne Donovan, a Hall of Famer and two-time Olympic gold medalist. "It's nice to see the women getting on board with the sign of the times.

"I think sometimes the WNBA gets pigeonholed into a specific fan base. By having Foxwoods on our jersey, or Bing or Farmers out in L.A., I think it speaks to this league being marketable to a large group of people."


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