The Comm and Gender Spot

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Out and Proud

Today was a monumental day in the world of women’s basketball. No, a championship game wasn’t played or a new team was added to the expanding WNBA field. It has to do with a personal issue that one of the sport’s biggest stars of all time has decided to come forward with.

Sheryl Swoopes, of the Houston Comets, discusses in an article in ESPN The Magazine that she is in fact a lesbian and in a long term relationship.

This may not be groundbreaking in the overall scheme of the world; bigger and more widely known stars such as Rosie and Ellen have come out before her. But Sheryl really is the biggest name and the face of women’s basketball. And, as far as I can remember, she is the first big name African American female to come out.

The WNBA for many years has attempted to shake its lesbian image. They would promote family days and discuss their players’ husband and boyfriends. But as anyone who has ever been to a WNBA game can attest, me included, a very large percentage of the sport’s fan base is lesbian.

Sheryl Swoopes declaration should open doors for more female athletes to come out of the closet as well. As a three-time WNBA MVP, five-time WNBA all star, and three time Olympic gold medalist she is an idol to many women and girls out there looking to her as the ideal female basketball player. Many a lesbian athlete (and gay male athletes for that matter) should be able to look at Swoopes and realize that if a star of that magnitude can be proud of who they are and not be afraid to tell the world, then maybe they can too.

Sheryl’s biggest worry is that some of her fans will no longer feel right in looking up to her. I can tell her that by doing this she is actually going to gain some fans, not just for her ability to play basketball but for her personal strength in declaring who she was in a world that may not be ready to accept her. And she can now count me as one of those fans.

Welcome to the club Sheryl. Remind me to show you the secret handshake!


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