When the Indiana Fever first started discussing the possibility of live streaming the team's games last October, it seemed like a good way to connect with fans who couldn't attend home games in Indianapolis.
Of course, once the coronavirus pandemic chased the entire league into a “bubble” at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, that description now applies to all Fever fans.
“Since we're the 'Indiana' Fever, we really believe that our mission is to inspire and build fandom throughout the state of Indiana, and the only way to do would be to utilize technology to open up those doors,” said team president Allison Barber. “Of course we had no idea we would find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, and that our players would be playing all their games in Florida. We were fortunate that we had put these things in place.
“We're the first in the country to do it.”
Aside from the five Fever games scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN networks, all games will be streamed for free at fever.wnba.com. That includes games that will also be broadcast on other networks such as Fox Sports and CBS Sports Network. Games can also be streamed on iPhone or Android apps.
The service will be available to all Indiana residents, although it will not work for those who live outside the state. Non-Indiana residents can stream games through the WNBA League Pass.
Any basketball fans who do turn in to the livestream will be getting the same view of the game as Barber, who is trying to manage the organization from afar.
“It's very peculiar,” Barber said of working from Indiana while most of the rest of the team staff is in the “Wubble.” “Thank heavens for Zoom. I was on a call the other day with Natalie (Achonwa) and Candice (Dupree). It's peculiar, because it's exciting to be in the gym and spend time in the gym. But what we're really energized by is when we go out in the community. ...Natalie was saying how much the players miss being in Indianapolis and around the state and helping connect with our fans and kids and camps.”
Last week, Achonwa discussed the importance of remaining involved in the community even when the team won't be playing in Indianapolis in the foreseeable future. On Friday, the team officially unveiled the Fever4Change initiative, which includes both Rebounds4Change and the Sneaker Auction.
“It's really player-driven, player ideas. So it's really exciting,” Barber said.
The Fever is asking fans to pledge a dollar amount for each rebound this season. Each player is also wearing a custom-made sneaker during the course of the season, which will be auctioned off to benefit Fever4Change grant award winners.
“The organizations our team will select will range from groups that help combat food deserts with local vegetable gardens to those that provide resources for Black women and girls,” Dupree was quoted as saying in the team's press release. “It is important for us to support organizations that are hands-on in efforts to level the playing field.”