NEW YORK – The WNBA is offering an assist to players trying to stay safe while traveling overseas.
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The league has partnered with LiveSafe, a safety communications platform, to provide a mobile security app to its 60-plus players competing in Russia, Turkey, China and other countries this offseason. The app debuted this week and players are already signing up.
"This was a proactive effort to protect our players and secure their personal safety," WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "Our partner in this endeavor is LiveSafe. It has multiple features and functionality. It's a real-time way for our players to ask for help and receive help in dangerous situations or threatening environments."
The app will allow the players to communicate directly with the league and its security team. It also can send security advisories and notifications to players when they're overseas, similar to what one might get from the state department.
Borders said that the league's security team has been working with LiveSafe on the app for a while, and that it was not in reaction to any specific threat to players.
"We live in a complicated time. We live in a global environment," Borders said. "These young women are some of the best athletes in the world. They are citizens of that same world. They experience cultures and conflicts in the world. We always want to make sure they are safe. They are our primary stakeholder in the league."
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Indiana Fever star Marissa Coleman is in her third offseason playing in Turkey. Last January, she left the area near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul moments before a suicide bombing occurred there.
"A guy walked by yelling bomb! Bomb!" Coleman recalled. "We thought he was toying with us, so we left, and then my phone started buzzing. First thing I saw was a CNN update that there was a bomb outside the Blue Mosque."
She welcomes the league's security initiative.
"I think it's awesome. It's great the league is doing that and showing they care," Coleman said. "It does get scary over there. I'm home for the holidays, but the last 10 days before I came home we had three bombings and the assassination of the ambassador. It's good to know the WNBA is on top of things and that if we need to get out of there quick, we can."
Coleman said she's become more worried about her safety with more time in Turkey.
"I've seen the progression of how things are escalating. We stick out like sore thumbs. You can't avoid certain things, and it does make you nervous," Coleman said. "I'm very hyper aware, vigilant of my surroundings. You never know."
Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark also has vast international playing experience, spending five years in Israel before heading to Turkey this year. She was happy to have the league offer help.
"I'm glad the WNBA has introduced a new app that offers real-time solutions to address security and communication needs for players competing internationally," she said. "It has certainly given us additional peace of mind."
Borders is proud that the WNBA is the first professional league to use the app to support its players outside the U.S.
LiveSafe is used by a few NFL and MLB stadiums. The company has been around for 3 1/2 years and allows organizations to customize within the platform.
"We are providing the software and platform," LiveSafe President and CEO Carolyn Parent said. "Mobile brings a whole level of convenience. If you don't know who to call or where do I go, the app and platform dynamically will know that. It will automatically route to the security team."
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