WNBA finally asks lesbians to go steady


If you’re a woman of a certain age, no doubt you’ve lived to tell this common tale. It’s a story of chasing after the “confused” girl who really seemed to love having you around — and even made out with you once or twice when no one was around — but who wouldn’t acknowledge you publicly when out with a group of friends.

Well, for those for whom the WNBA has been that “confused” girl, your tale of courtship (pun totally intended) just got its happy ending.

After 17 years of accepting our time, attention and consumer dollars while all the while peppering its television broadcasts with info-bites about its players’ husbands and children (“Hey, look everybody — our players are straight!”) and promoting the league as the summertime destination for male basketball fans and their young daughters, the WNBA finally walked right up to us yesterday and gave us a big wet kiss in front of everybody.

The overture came in the form of an announcement of WNBA Pride, presented by COVERGIRL (but after all these years of pining, I suppose we can forgive them for that), described in a press release as “a new national platform celebrating inclusion and equality, while combating anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bias.”

“The WNBA welcomes all fans, athletes and partners to our game,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. “These beliefs unite the 12 teams of the WNBA and we are very excited to introduce the WNBA Pride platform which celebrates acceptance and inclusion. The WNBA takes great pride in working with extraordinary partners who share these values, and we are so grateful to our presenting partner COVERGIRL along with ESPN, GLSEN and GLAAD for joining the WNBA on this important initiative.”

Acknowledging that a study commissioned in 2012 revealed that 25 percent of lesbians watch the WNBA’s televised broadcasts and that 21 percent have attended a game, the league confessed the error of its ways in miscalculating its fan base.

“We guessed very wrong on that,” said Rick Welts, who was executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the NBA when the WNBA first started in 1997, noting that the league’s executives had believed that the fan base would be a carry over from the NBA.

Over the years, the WNBA has done some promotion to the LGBT community locally, sponsoring pride events and hosting groups at games. But WNBA Pride is the first league-wide initiative aimed at attracting the LGBT crowd.

Openly gay WNBA superstar Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury said, “I’m so glad we’re finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA.” Griner plans to don rainbow-colored shoes throughout June in a show of support for the initiative.

So what will WNBA Pride entail? Well, it started with the launch of the WNBA Pride website on Wednesday and will continue with teams participating in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events and advertising with lesbian media. All 12 teams will also have their own Pride initiative over the course of the season, and the league will sponsor the fifth annual LogoTV/AfterEllen Score Your Seats Sweepstakes, where fans will have the opportunity to win a trip to a WNBA Finals game.

The league will become the first to celebrate LGBT Pride on national television when the Tulsa Shock takes on the Chicago Sky on Sunday, June 22, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2. During the national game telecast, WNBA Pride will have a major presence, including the new WNBA Pride logo appearing in court-side signage and in-game promotions.

Other announced Pride games include:

Washington — 7/25/2014
Tulsa — 6/6/2014
Seattle — 6/22/2014
Phoenix — 6/20/2014
New York — 6/27/2014
Minnesota — 6/20/2014
Indiana — 6/11/2014
Chicago — 6/22/2014
Atlanta — 6/20/2014

The news is exciting, ladies, but as is always the case with matters of the heart, keep your eyes open and your wits about you until the object of your desire reveals her true intentions.

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