‘Tall, black, gay’ perception hurts WNBA

‘Tall, black, gay’ perception hurts WNBA

LOS ANGELES • Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird believes women’s football players in the United States are more widely supported and favoured than their counterparts in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) because of the public perception of them as “cute little white girls”.

Point guard Bird, who won her fourth WNBA title this month, said in an interview with CNN that elite basketball players were more quickly judged by people based on their appearance.

“Even though we’re female athletes playing at a high level, our worlds… the football world and the basketball world are just totally different,” she said.

“To be blunt, it’s the demographic of who’s playing. Women’s football players generally are cute little white girls while WNBA players, we’re all shapes and sizes… a lot of black, gay, tall women… there’s maybe an intimidation factor and people are quick to judge it and put it down.”

Bird’s comments reflect those of Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain of the US women’s national football team, who are the defending world champions.

In a recent column in the Players’ Tribune, the midfielder felt that the US media tended to “scan tall and black and queer” players.

The main problem, according to Bird, is not how the WNBA is marketed.

“It’s how society and how the outside world is willing to accept the cute girl next door, but not willing to accept, or embrace, or not judge these basketball players who are tall, black, gay,” she added.

“That… is where the issue is. Where I feel like I’ve learnt throughout that process is you have to be who you are. You have to be true to who you are and authentic.”

The 24th season of the WNBA concluded early this month, but it remains a money-losing project despite substantial subsidies from the NBA.

In October 2018, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters that the women’s league loses “over US$10 million (S$13.6 million)” every year it has been in operation.