Elena Delle Donne would prefer to live and work in a world without labels and the restraints that often accompany them.
But the Sky star guard and reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player understands that getting to that place will take time.
Delle Donne will be a featured participant in the inaugural espnW: Women + Sports Chicago conference April 20 at Morgan Manufacturing.
Red Stars defender Julie Johnston, Gatorade chief marketing officer Morgan Flatley and Northwestern women’s lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller are among the notable participants in a daylong event that will be hosted by ESPN personality Sarah Spain, who grew up in Lake Forest.
The summit will include seminars about women’s involvement in sports and how they create more of an influence.
“I think there are strides that are being made each day, each week, each year, but I think there is a long way to go,” Delle Donne said. “My goal is for people to start removing labels. I want to be known as a great basketball player, not a great female basketball player.”
Delle Donne said in an interview with New York Magazine earlier this month that she wonders how many times athletes such as J.J. Watt and Tom Brady are asked about their looks in interviews, adding that such inquires are routine with female athletes.
Delle Donne said the conference comes at a time when women’s basketball is gaining more media attention because of the upcoming Summer Olympics and the WNBA getting ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Coming off a season in which she led the league in scoring (23.4 points per game) and free-throw percentage (95 percent) and was third in rebounding (8.4 per game), Delle Donne has a unique platform to express her opinions and vision for the future of women in professional sports.
While she quickly has become one of the faces of the WNBA, she realizes that she can’t influence everyone on her own.
“Making an impact means [having] the ability to make a change in a positive direction,” Delle Donne said. “I’m not able to make an impact without the support of my team around me. I really value the thoughts and opinions of my teammates and other players in the league.”
Delle Donne said the number of influential voices involved in the conference will make the event an important one.
“The more discussions we have about women in sport, the more awareness we can bring to what the inspiring females are doing in sports,” Delle Donne said. “Whether that’s in business or in their respective playing fields.”
The conference is open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.espnwimpact.com.
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