NEW YORK (AP) - It didn’t take long for the WNBA’s new security app to be put to the test.
Within a week of its debut, a deadly shooting occurred on New Year’s Eve at an Istanbul nightclub. A handful of WNBA players were in the area that night celebrating, and the LiveSafe app allowed them to get in touch with league security officials quickly as events were unfolding down the street.
Between the new app and a group text chat set up by the union months earlier for players in Turkey, everyone was able to be accounted for within a few hours of the attack.
The response time was even faster less than a week later when another attack occurred, this time near a courthouse in Izmir, where an explosives-laden vehicle was detonated.
“We knew they were OK pretty quickly,” WNBPA director of operations Terri Jackson said.
Besides allowing for a quick check-in, the league sent a message to the players in Turkey through the app to warn them to take shelter and avoid the area of the shooting.
While not every player was using the app yet when the attacks occurred, more have started to sign up for it, including Kiah Stokes, who downloaded it after the nightclub shooting.
“With the increasing number of attacks, I just wanted to always have information available about where I can go to be safe, and who I can contact if there is a dangerous situation,” the Liberty forward said in a text to The Associated Press.
Overseas security has been a top priority for both the league and the union for a while. Jackson said she had a conference call with player agents right after she took the job with the union in May.
“The agents convened a call and talked to me about their priorities and wanted to know my position,” Jackson said. “My husband used to play overseas, so I understood exactly what the agents were describing to me that their concerns were. It resonated with me very quickly and was not hard to make that a top priority for me, too.”
Jackson said her first meeting with the league office was with WNBA security.
“I was trying to figure out what they were doing security-wise for the players. We couldn’t tell players not to play overseas,” Jackson recalled. “We’ve had a really good collaborative effort with the league on security.”
Before the WNBA unveiled its app, Jackson had helped start the group text chat with the 30 or so players in Turkey. That number has dropped to about two dozen, with players leaving the country because of security concerns .
“Email is great, but this generation and how they are communicating, they are relying on different forms of technology,” Jackson said.
Now the app has given players another form of communication.
“I love the app and I love the chat, too,” Jackson said. “I’m not picking one over the other. Both give the players more opportunity for information and to stay safe.”
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