NEW YORK (AP) - Lisa Borders stepped down as WNBA president on Tuesday, the third executive to leave the league in six months.
She will become the first president and CEO of Time’s Up - an organization dedicated to safe, fair and dignified work for women.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will oversee the WNBA on an interim basis while a search begins for a successor. Borders ran the league for three seasons, joining in 2016 as its fourth president. She will stay until Nov. 1.
The WNBA is coming off a season in which it had its highest TV ratings in four years and begins its 23rd season next year.
But her departure follows that of Jay Parry, the WNBA’s chief operating officer who left in April, and Ann Rodriguez, the senior vice president of league operations who left last month.
“The sky is absolutely not falling,” Borders told The Associated Press by phone. “It’s a natural evolution in any business. In young businesses you have talent coming and going on a regular basis. What I would say from my leaving is this is an extraordinary opportunity. I think this is an opportunity for the next leader to come in and take the baton and continue the work we have started here.”
Under Borders, the playoff format changed - the top two teams now meet for the championship instead of a title game between conference champions. She also helped the San Antonio Stars move to Las Vegas, with their sale to MGM Resorts International.
She was instrumental in the WNBA growing in areas such as live streaming of games on Twitter and the availability of one-day daily fantasy. The league also appeared in a video game for the first time - NBA Live 18.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver lauded Borders for her “leadership and tireless commitment.”
“This is a natural transition for Lisa knowing what a champion she is for issues involving women’s empowerment and social justice,” Silver said in a statement. “And fortunately for us, she leaves the league with strong tail winds propelling it forward.”
Labor issues, however, are on the horizon, with the players’ union potentially opting out of the collective bargaining agreement next month. The New York Liberty remain up for sale, nearly a year after James Dolan said he no longer wants to own the team.
“The W is deep in my heart and will always be there.” Borders said. “I was a fan when I came here, a fan now and always will be a fan of the W. Just because I’ll be in another role doesn’t mean you won’t see me in the arena sitting right in the front row watching our players play in different arenas across the country.”
Borders says it was fully her decision to leave, adding she was approached this summer by a former colleague now with Time’s Up. The nonprofit organization also fights workplace sexual misconduct and provides a legal defense fund for women.
“She put my hat in the ring, so to speak,” Borders said. “This movement is for all women, not just women in sports, tech, finance or health care. All women across the globe.”
Borders says she is most proud of the relationships she built with players.
“At the end of the day those women, our women, are what make the W what it is and what it stands for,” she said. “Without the players we don’t have anything. We don’t have fans, we don’t have a league.”
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