Despite the WNBA as we know it being quite gay friendly and accepting of all orientations, it actually has a history of shunning its gay audiences. In moves designed to draw in a straight, nuclear family crowd and avoid the ‘all female athletes are lesbians’ stereotype, the WNBA spent years trying to avoid all things lesbian.
It began at its launch in 1997 when it tried to market Sheryl Swoopes as the face of its league (Swoopes being married and pregnant at the time) and then in 1998 The Advocate reported that “don’t come out” was often the advice given to gay WNBA players. In 2000 the WNBA released a list of engaged or married players to the press in an effort to prove how small the lesbian player presence was and even by 2008 players were being taught how to wear clothes and put on make-up as if the male gaze should ever be considered in the sporting world.
The past events of one of the world’s most important establishments for women’s sports leave a dark blotch of a mark on its past. But the past is the past and after recent WNBA marketing initiatives have targeted towards lesbians, the organisation seems to be cleaning up its act. And, as the below list will show you, there are plenty of gay WNBA players for queer women to support too.
Brittney Griner’s name being featured on this list probably negates the wording of the title – you likely already know who she is.
The number one pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, Griner has already had massive success on the professional court. In her first game for the Phoenix Mercury she recorded two slam dunks, equalling the WNBA dunk record and becoming the first WNBA player to dunk twice in one game. She helped the team to win the 2014 WNBA title, has been named a WNBA all-star twice and was featured on the roster for the USA at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for women
Such a phenomenally talented player, Griner is also out and proud and as the first openly gay athlete to be sponsored by Nike, she also looks tremendously good whilst doing so.
Similarly talented is Glory Johnson. Playing collegiately for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Johnson recorded 36 double doubles (double digit figures in two of five categories – points, steals, blocks, assists or rebounds – in one game) across the course of her collegiate career and trained under head coach Pat Summitt. For those out of the loop, Summitt holds the record for the most wins recorded in NCAA basketball history (men or women’s teams) meaning that Johnson’s talented was in good hands. Johnson was also picked 4th by Tulsa Shock in the first round of the 2012 WNBA draft and has since been named to the Western Conference All-Star team twice.
Oh and she also happens to be engaged to Brittney Griner, which is just adorable
As worthy of the ‘supremely talented’ moniker as Johnson and Griner is Angel McCoughtry. Where Griner has dunks and blocks, McCoughtry just has outright scoring, having been a two time WNBA scoring champion as a player for Atlanta Dream (which she was drafted to as 1st overall in the 2009 draft), a two time WNBA all star and led the league in steals in 2012. The defensive side of her game isn’t shabby either, being voted as a member of the WNBA All Defensive Team in every year she’s played in the league.
As for her sexuality, McCoughtry makes hers no secret and as well as being a fantastic basketball player in the city, the community also loves her for her hosting and supporting of Atlanta pride events during Summer.
Know for her scrappy play, there’s a reason that Cappie Pondexter was voted by fans as one of the top 15 players in WNBA history. That’s certainly some high praise but she has the talent to back it up having won an Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008, she was named a WNBA all star three times and won the WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury twice (she was even named MVP of their 2007 finals) before requesting a trade that sent her to the New York Liberty in 2010.
Off the court Pondexter is also a savvy businesswoman. She recently set up 4 Seasons Style Management, a company helps people tailor their images – showing that she has tactical sports smarts as well as business ones.
Drafted number one in 2006 by the Minnesota Lynx, Seimone Augustus was named the Rookie of the Year. As her career has progressed, her talent has only increased even further having since gone on to become a five time WNBA all star, a two time WNBA champion (in 2011 she the MVP of the finals) and outside of the United States she has also been a two time EuroCup Champion and was a EuroCup MVP too.
As well as being one the most recognised WNBA players around, Augustus is also outspoken on the topic of gay rights too. In 2012 she voiced her opinion against the Minnesota gay marriage ban (marriage equality became legal in 2013), even appearing in an ESPN Outside the Lines reports with her then fiancé LaTaya Varner.
Drafted number one in 2005 by the (now defunct) Charlotte Sting, Janel McCarville has played all across the international map. She’s been at New York Liberty in the US, Good Angels Košice in Slovakia, CCC Polkowice in Poland and Spartak Moscow Region in Russia. She currently plays for the Minnesota Lynx with Seimone Augustus, having been part of the side that won the 2013 WNBA title.
Like her teammate, McCarville is also outspoken and appeared in Curve Magazine in 2011 speaking openly about her sexuality, saying that it’s nothing she’s ever felt the need to hide away.