Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sport Studies

Major Professor

Lars Dzikus

Committee Members

Joy DeSensi, Leslee Fisher, Ronald Taylor

Abstract

Through this study, I investigated the migration of American Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players to professional club teams overseas. International migration of professional women athletes has been occurring for decades, yet little is known about the experiences of these labor migrants apart from women’s soccer (Agergaard & Tiesler, 2014). Research examining sport labor migration has largely focused on the experiences of men (Maguire, 2008).

The study has filled in gaps in the literature, giving voice to women’s experiences as sport labor migrants, specifically in reference to women’s professional basketball players. Historically, many WNBA players have chosen to play two seasons in the course of a year because they have been able to make more money overseas, even though they have gained more media attention in the WNBA (Woods, 2012). Men playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA), however, tend to play in only one season.

Findings from this current study have contributed to the development of a typology characterizing the motivations of WNBA transnational sport labor migrants. Also, results from this study provide insight and context for how WNBA players experienced professional basketball overseas on and off the court. Specifically I found that the majority of WNBA transnational sport labor migrants preferred to play overseas versus playing in the WNBA, the majority had a better quality of life playing in Europe in comparison to playing in Asia, and the agent of the athlete played a significant role in their career path. A qualitative exploratory case study methodology was employed (Yin, 2009), which included semi-structured interviews with 10 WNBA players who had played consecutively in the WNBA and overseas for at least one year. The theory of transnationalism (Carter, 2007) was used as a framework for inquiring about and understanding the experiences and motivations of the participants from their grounded perspectives.

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