Why the WNBA Won’t be Coming Out of the Closet Anytime Soon
The Phoenix Mercury won their second WNBA Championship in three years last week, in a hard-fought series against the Indiana Fever. Unless you watch ESPN2 on a regular basis, you probably didn’t hear a thing about it.
The WNBA is failing. The league has been failing for years, actually. For some reason, they can’t seem to fill enough seats or get enough fans to watch them on a regular basis. Part of the problem is that the regular season games aren’t aired on regular television stations. I should know—I’ve tried to find them.
I’m a basketball fan, myself. I love the sport—men’s and women’s. When college basketball rolls around, I become like a giddy little kid in a candy store. I’ve tried to pump up the WNBA as much as possible, but every year it feels as though the league is slipping further into the cracks.
I have to give some credit to a few WNBA executives, who have tried everything they could possibly think of in order to make the league more popular and visible. Some teams, like the Mercury and the Los Angeles Sparkes, even inked promotional deals with companies, which allowed players to wear the name of said companies on their WNBA jerseys. But the jerseys look more like billboards than they do WNBA uniforms, so it feels like a desperate attempt to make some extra cash than anything else.
So—where am I going with all of this?
Those of use who were waiting (and hoping) for the WNBA to evolve and accept openly gay athletes with open arms isn’t going to happen. Not now, not ever.
It’s too risky. The league needs to make money or they are going to dissolve, and they do not want to alienate whatever fans they have left (even though half of those fans are lesbians). Case and point—the only openly gay player, legendary Sheryl Swoopes (who came out in 2005) isn’t even actively playing. She signed with the Seattle Storm in the spring of 2008, and was waived in February 2008. She’s all but disappeared.
It’s hard for me to believe that there are no other gay players in the entire WNBA. No one else has come forward or dared to take over the spotlight that Swoopes left open. Even when she had the courage to come out, no one followed her lead. It’s a shame, really. There are many young gay athletes who could benefit greatly from openly gay role models. But money talks. It even trickles down to the college ranks, where talented players are being recruited based on whether or not teams have a gay “climate.” Meaning, recruiters specifically tell recruits that their teams are gay-free in order to entice them to come and play for their school. ESPN did a documentary on this practice a year or so ago, called The Whispers. Nothing came of it. And the whispers remain.
I’m not saying that welcoming or promoting openly gay players would save the WNBA. But at this point, it certainly couldn’t hurt. No one is watching the games. Maybe having a player come out of the WNBA closet is just what the league needs to get some publicity.
For more sports coverage from Lyndsey D'arcangelo visit everyjoe.com.