In a world filled with entertainment centered entirely around the male gaze, Unfinished Business is a refreshing change of pace. Sports stories have such immense capacity to inspire, and this documentary is no exception. It’s a powerful rebuke to the unfortunate narrative that womens’ professional sports are inherently less interesting, or any less worthy of attention from sports fans. Along the way, viewers get an inside look at the highs and lows of professional athletics from a much-needed perspective.
It’s immediately clear that the women featured here have a necessary story to tell. It’s frankly heartbreaking to consider the fact that the derision and disrespect that these professional athletes faced were present from the WNBA’s beginnings. It’s also clear that the League continues to not know how to market a league of predominantly Black women LGBTQ+ players. This is disappointing, since the WNBA and the players clearly have so much to offer the sports world.
The stories shown throughout Unfinished Business are treated with the utmost sensitivity. One can’t help but be infuriated when thinking about the assembly line of mediocre male athletes who get held up as god-like, when the incredible women of the WNBA don’t get near the attention and admiration that is their due. Even in the worst of working conditions (stadiums that are falling apart?!), these athletes make no less effort to do their job spectacularly well. Unfinished Business builds this sense of frustration and injustice, and it’s as uncomfortable as it is necessary.
Unfinished Business also shows, with unflinching honesty, the triumphs and perils of being a professional athlete at the highest level. The chronic physical struggle of being an athlete of this caliber is evident, and you can’t help but feel for these athletes who give their all each day of their career, only for it to potentially be over in less than a second. It’s impossible to take anything for granted when the stakes are this high.
Relatedly, with all professional athletes, but women in particular, our society too often loses sight of the fact that these people are doing actual jobs to earn a living. On of the most infuriating stories Unfinished Business chronicles is the fact that so many WNBA athletes need to supplement their income in the off-season by playing overseas in international leagues, or by working menial service jobs. Would LeBron James or Steph Curry be seen working in their local McDonalds? Why then are WNBA players expected to live off of less than a living wage for the same effort as their male counterparts?
Finally, the way these players use their status to push for real social change is inspiring. Make no mistake, it’s soul-crushing to consider the fact that it’s necessary. But the Black Lives Matter movement is given additional legitimacy by having these professionals raise their voices in support of the cause. Sports has always been a venue for social change, and the women featured here are a pert of that legacy.
The WNBA players featured in Unfinished Business are nothing less than aspirational. Their careers are truly meditations on the necessity of playing to win rather than playing not to lose. This is a timely message, particularly when sports are more accessible to fans than ever. The athletes featured in Unfinished Business aren’t just the future; they are very much the present. We would do well to regard them as such.
Unfinished Business had its World Premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival.