FanDuel - WFBC

October 26, 2005

"Sexuality and gender don't change anyone's performance on the court.": NJCAA Player of the Year, NCAA champion, Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, National player of the year, Goodwill Games Gold medal winner, Three time Olympic gold medal winner, Four time WNBA champion, Three time regular-season MVP, Five-time All-WNBA First Team honoree, first female athlete to have a shoe named after her. The very talented Sheryl Swoopes announced she is gay.

posted by scully to basketball at 07:45 AM - 60 comments

A gay female athlete. Well knock me over with a feather, I am shocked. I must admit that when they do not wear flannel shirts and drive around in there little Ford Rangers it is hard for me to pick up on their sexuality.

posted by Turbo at 07:55 AM on October 26

Interesting, considering her former activities with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that's expended considerable energy in hunting down gay athletes. Oh well. (btw, Picabo Street also had a Nike shoe named after her)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:03 AM on October 26

Yeah. That's what made this newsworthy, Turbo. As the article mentions, women's basketball is always assumed to be inhabited by gay athletes, but for whatever reasons, the WNBA has tried to distance itself from such things. Ironically enough, even going so far as to use a pregnant—and married—Swoopes in previous advertising campaigns. As the article mentions, there have been other out women's basketball players, but none as well-known as Swoopes. It also mentions that gay males have played at the professional level, but none to date have ever come out while still playing. [on preview: l_b_b, yes, but Swoopes was the first to have a shoe named after her, which is what I said. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes thing is interesting. I also wonder how Mississippi feels about their Senate proclation for Swoopes' partner now.]

posted by scully at 08:12 AM on October 26

Good for Swoopes. Every prominent athlete who comes out pushes us closer to the day this isn't news any more.

posted by rcade at 08:21 AM on October 26

ohmygod! a gay female athlete. Next thing you'll be telling me is that most male interior decorators are gay! Stunning!

posted by willthrill72 at 08:26 AM on October 26

What rcade said. In my country, Michelle Timms (ex Phoenix Mercury) was/is much better known than Swoopes, and is now a popular TV commentator to boot. And her sexuality never made any headlines.

posted by owlhouse at 08:44 AM on October 26

So where are the pics?

posted by dzot at 08:47 AM on October 26

on preview: l_b_b, yes, but Swoopes was the first to have a shoe named after her, which is what I said. When was the Air Swoopes released, terrapin? I have a feeling the Air Peek (or whatever it was called) was out there first.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:48 AM on October 26

Excellent. Especially coupled with her work with Christian organizations. I look forward to the day when this is simply a footnote.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:49 AM on October 26

Why is it even an issue if Swoopes is gay or straight. As a society we need to quit worrying about what anyone is doing in their private lives. What difference should it make to anybody else? I commend her for her bravery in coming out. She can live her life with peace in her heart now, even with all the bashing she will be who she is.

posted by Myop at 08:50 AM on October 26

(btw, Picabo Street also had a Nike shoe named after her) I hear she also had a medical wing named after her at a hospital. It's called Picabo, I C U.

posted by drevl at 08:56 AM on October 26

(btw, Picabo Street also had a Nike shoe named after her) I hear she also had a medical wing named after her at a hospital. It's called Picabo, I C U. Now that's funny!

posted by willthrill72 at 08:58 AM on October 26

sorry, l_b_b, I am using the link ESPN article as my reference concerning the shoe. The article states that her shoe was the first. The rest of Swoopes' CV is still impressive though without the shoe.

posted by scully at 09:11 AM on October 26

I wonder if any kind of locker room/undressing issue will come up with Swoopes coming out of the closet. Some homophobes might get uncomfortable getting "checked out" by a lesbian. It looks like it hasn't with other WNBA players coming out but Swoopes is high profile and I am sure there will be fall out from this. The land of the free and home of the brave can be awfully intolerant sometimes.

posted by HATER 187 at 09:23 AM on October 26

When was the Air Swoopes released, terrapin? 1995

posted by goddam at 09:25 AM on October 26

I wonder if any kind of locker room/undressing issue will come up with Swoopes coming out of the closet. Some homophobes might get uncomfortable getting "checked out" by a lesbian. It looks like it hasn't with other WNBA players coming out but Swoopes is high profile and I am sure there will be fall out from this. The land of the free and home of the brave can be awfully intolerant sometimes. I'm sure that the news (if it is news to anyone who shares a locker room with Swoopes) will cause some people to suddenly imagine that she's looking at them with lust in her heart. It's not a situation that has a parallel in the heterosexual universe, and so most heterosexuals probably can't imagine being around naked people of the opposite sex without it being a sexually charged situation, so I'm sure that some people will imagine that Swoopes is staring at every naked woman in the Comets locker room with lust in her heart. Reality seems to be otherwise, but as you say, that doesn't necessarily mean that people won't react.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:56 AM on October 26

When was the Air Swoopes released, terrapin? 1995 That long ago? Somehow I thought it was more recent. Picabo Street's shoe deal was also in 1995.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:01 AM on October 26

Unfortunately, the press and others feel the need to categorize people into groups or shove them into neat little boxes for their own purposes. I think this issue has as much relavence as the color of her skin. Maybe they'll create a new box for African-American Lesbian Athletes with shoe deals.

posted by lonsterbox at 10:22 AM on October 26

Actually I heard Hines Ward is gay, which really would surprise me since he is one of the toughest SOBs playing ball.

posted by Drallig9399 at 10:23 AM on October 26

Is that because only heterosexuals are tough? Please! Can anyone else tack on a few more cliches.

posted by lonsterbox at 10:29 AM on October 26

I would, but my Irish genes have left me drunk this morning.

posted by yerfatma at 10:43 AM on October 26

Touche!

posted by lonsterbox at 10:44 AM on October 26

'fess up, yerfatma -- you look just like that little Celtics leprechaun, don't you?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:59 AM on October 26

what? Isn't it bigger news to find a straight female basketball player?

posted by darkmusashi at 11:05 AM on October 26

Wow. I expected ignorance when I opened this thread, and there it is. Turbo, willthrill, darkmusashi: your attitude is why it's taken so long for people to come clean about who they're into. Have a look at how Swoopes has conducted herself throughout her career up to this point, and how she'll doubtless stand up for herself (and all the communities of which she is a part) after this, and tell me she's not a better human being than you are, regardless of who she happens to dig in her personal life. Swoopes is one of the classiest athletes in sports, and she's going to need all of that grace to deal with all the shit she's going to take over this announcement. I'm guessing that even if her Comets teammates didn't know/figure it out beforehand, this can't be a surprise to them, and I hope that this is another step towards acceptance. Judging from this thread, though, there's a long way to go.

posted by chicobangs at 11:18 AM on October 26

Interesting discussion. A person shouldnt be getting headlines for the sexual orrientation. It had nothing to do with the sport and how its played..

posted by daddisamm at 11:19 AM on October 26

Chico- It think maybe you took my comment the wrong way. I was just trying to say I beleive this is a non-issue, just in a funny way. i could care less if Swoopes or her entire team or league are gay. It's not relevant. I commend her for "coming out" I just don't think it should be newsworthy. It's o.k to interject humor in other threads on controversial topics, just don't do it if it involves homosexuality? Lighten up a bit. And why do you say she "came clean"? You equate the fact that she's a lesbian to being a heroin junkie or that she was hiding a dirty little secret. It's not what she's into, it's part of who she is.

posted by willthrill72 at 11:39 AM on October 26

Ironically, in its infancy, the WNBA marketed a pregnant, married Swoopes to put a heterosexual face on its promotional campaign. Okay, so does someone want to straighten this out for me? Sheryl Swoopes was married to a man and had a child with that man. According to an Ebony article, her husband Eric put his career on hold for her and chased her from the first time they met. I couldn't find much else, but Sheryl's choice of words in this webchat about pregnancy and recovery doesn't exactly make it sound like they parted on the best of terms. I have no idea what caused them to split up, but if we assume it was her sexuality, is Swoopes still one of the classiest athletes in sports if she misled her former husband about her sexual orientation? I mean, unless she only decided she was gay after she married her husband. I also found this exchange interesting: "The talk about the WNBA being full of lesbians is not true," Swoopes says. "There are as many straight women in the league as there are gay. What really irritates me is when people talk about football, baseball and the NBA, you don't hear all of this talk about the gay guys playing. But when you talk about the WNBA, then it becomes an issue. Sexuality and gender don't change anyone's performance on the court." I completely agree about it being a non-issue in terms of performance and acceptance. But there are as many gay women as straight women in the WBNA? Fifty percent? Well, that would be a story, wouldn't it? That's a lot more than would be average in any other field, right? /prepares to get lambasted

posted by wfrazerjr at 12:03 PM on October 26

agree with you wfrazerjr, but this inst really news--it should be a non-issue in sports.

posted by daddisamm at 12:07 PM on October 26

... is Swoopes still one of the classiest athletes in sports if she misled her former husband about her sexual orientation? She says in the article that she discovered her homosexuality "much later in life," which sounds less like she was misleading her ex and more like she was misleading herself.

posted by rcade at 12:16 PM on October 26

my Irish genes have left me drunk this morning See, I was going to get drunk too, like a good Irishman, but instead I got into a fistfight. With some hot-blooded Latino. You know how those people are.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 12:19 PM on October 26

I mean, unless she only decided she was gay after she married her husband. It's right there in the article. "Discovering I'm gay just sort of happened much later in life," Swoopes says. "Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I'm a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can't control that."

posted by cl at 12:26 PM on October 26

agree with you wfrazerjr, but this inst really news--it should be a non-issue in sports. daddisamm, clearly it is news; it's showing up pretty prominently in this AM's sports news. Should it be news? No, but clearly we're still at the stage where most people feel deeply concerned about the sexuality of someone whom they will never even have an opportunity to date. It's news because this announcement will have consequences for Swoopes, and some of them could be very ugly. Texas, where Swoopes lives and works, has no antidiscrimination laws protecting gays; if the Houston Comets want, they can cut her loose tomorrow, simply for being a lesbian. Ditto Nike; I'm sure they have a clause in her contract, something vague about "image", that they can invoke if they choose to. Neither organization is likely to do something so blatant, but it wouldn't be surprising if Swoopes finds herself getting nudged to the back of the proverbial bus. And, of course, she'll pick up plenty of hate mail.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:31 PM on October 26

I would be amazed if the WNBA or WNBA sponsors took a retributive move against Swoopes for being gay. A lot of businesses are chasing gay customers these days.

posted by rcade at 12:33 PM on October 26

To quote Howard Stern, "Lesbians sell."

posted by dzot at 12:49 PM on October 26

daddisamm, clearly it is news; it's showing up pretty prominently in this AM's sports news. Should it be news? No, but clearly we're still at the stage where most people feel deeply concerned about the sexuality of someone whom they will never even have an opportunity to date. Yes lbb, I understand the fall-out of this news will be major. I am just stating that it shouldnt be. Too much ink has been wasted on the whole gays in sports issues. Why-because most of it is guess work. We dont know the exact numbers. That was my point LBB

posted by daddisamm at 12:56 PM on October 26

I would be amazed if the WNBA or WNBA sponsors took a retributive move against Swoopes for being gay. A lot of businesses are chasing gay customers these days. rcade, I'd be surprised if they were blatant about it. As for the "chasing gay customers" thing, that's not exactly new, but it's got more to do with the perception of gay men as an affluent demographic with a lot of disposable income...the Absolut vodka thing. I don't know if the people holding the purse strings would feel those kind of market forces WRT lesbians.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:03 PM on October 26

I just remember the shit Martina Navratilova went through when she came out, and it seemed needlessly cruel then, and I can't believe we haven't gotten past it fifteen years on. Snickering little asides like that are why people stay in the closet. And I say she "came clean" because this was something she kept hidden that she then decided to reveal, for whatever reasons she felt were important. That's what "coming clean" means. Now. They do have targeted advertising for WNBA teams in some places (the LA Sparks had a campaign a few years ago which I wouldn't imagine has gone away, and I know they give promotional tickets to some lesbian bars here in NY; I'd bet this happens most places). I suspect this will only ramp that up. Swoopes will get a whole different promotional campaign now, but it'll still be sizable, and it might even be a bigger deal than before. I hope. One more thing: this is absolutely a big deal because Swoopes is a known star with a certain level of fame who's still playing, but the to-do about this will be nothing compared to the first man in a North American team sport to come out. That'll be a Jackie Robinson type of situation. This will set the groundwork for such a thing, but this isn't that.

posted by chicobangs at 01:44 PM on October 26

I missed the quote in the original story, so now I'm trying to get my head around it. I think it's alien to me to not know which sex attracts you (especially not until after you've married and had a child) but it's not my business anyway. Good luck to her. I find it strange none of the stories I've seen have mentioned this, but Scott was an assistant coach for the Comets until last season, when she left for personal reasons. Why is she being referred to as a former coach at Ole Miss and not as a former Comet employee?

posted by wfrazerjr at 02:21 PM on October 26

I don't know if the people holding the purse strings would feel those kind of market forces WRT . . . I think Subaru pushes the other wagons in those campaigns.

posted by yerfatma at 02:22 PM on October 26

BOTTOM LINE: HOMOSEXUAL SODOMY !

posted by bigbreeze at 02:58 PM on October 26

BOTTOM LINE: HOMOSEXUAL SODOMY ! Well, of course that's the bottom line. Way to state the obvious, bigbreeze.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:10 PM on October 26

If you're trying out new pick-up lines, BigBreeze, I think I'd go with one a little more subtle.

posted by rcade at 03:29 PM on October 26

Now that's funny. Thanks rcade, you almost made me ruin my soundboard with a mouthful of soda. /passing soda through nostrils

posted by The_Black_Hand at 03:49 PM on October 26

bigbreeze: BOTTOM LINE: HOMOSEXUAL SODOMY ! Wait - lesbians are into anal? Well, damn, bigbreeze, point me at that website. It sounds like the one I've been waiting for all my life.

posted by Joey Michaels at 03:58 PM on October 26

I wonder if female athletes are more apt to be accepting of a gay teammate than male athletes.

posted by Desert Dog at 05:04 PM on October 26

...this is absolutely a big deal because Swoopes is a known star... I concur, Swoopes has oft been referred to as "the Female Jordan". Wonder if this will have any effect on LaTasha Byear's situation.

posted by lilnemo at 05:30 PM on October 26

Not that I care but I heard on the radio this morning that she doesn't consider herself "gay" but to just be in love with this one particular woman. I personally think if true that is a silly distinction to make but I would like any info i could get on this particular angle.

posted by fade2244 at 06:49 PM on October 26

Think you'll have to ask Swoopes about that one, fade.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:01 PM on October 26

From what I've seen, Sheryl Swoopes is a fantastic basketball player. From what I've read, Sheryl Swoopes is a wonderful human being. Why does anyone care who she is in love with. It's none of my business, and it sure as hell ain't the business of anyone here in SpoFi. How about we give her a pass here. As for this gay issue. I've read that more than 10 % of males are gay. Lets add up the number of men in the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL. Take that number and multiply by .10. That should approximate the number of gay professional athletes in major sports. That should put the Swoopes story in it's proper prospective.

posted by drevl at 07:50 PM on October 26

An odd wrinkle to this story: Swoopes is $710,000 in debt, including $275,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and announced her sexuality at the same time she inked an endorsement deal with Olivia, a travel company that caters to lesbians.

posted by rcade at 07:08 AM on October 27

As for this gay issue. I've read that more than 10 % of males are gay. Lets add up the number of men in the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL. Take that number and multiply by .10. That should approximate the number of gay professional athletes in major sports. That should put the Swoopes story in it's proper prospective. Actually it is believed that 10% of all humans are gay, not just men. And your math puts nothing in perspective other than to note that while hundreds of players in those leagues combined are probably gay, NONE of them are comfortable coming out in the current male professional sports culture. Sheryl Swoopes is the most prominent professional athlete to come out of the closet in a long time. What people assume about the number of lesbians in sport is beside the point. As others have mentioned, I too look forward to the day when who someone loves off the field/court is a non-issue. But as it is, we still have people who think so highly of themselves that every gay man is lusting after them in the lockeroom and threatening to give them Teh Gay. And we still have plenty of people who talk about black athletes like they are race horses. We may have come a long way, but it is well past time that we make longer strides forward.

posted by scully at 08:03 AM on October 27

wfrazerjr, I know of a LOT of people who were married and discovered they were gay after a while. A family in my high school-had 10 kids, married over 40 years and the mom discovered she way gay after all that.... Many people don't realize it-they hide it so deep that they don't know it. It happens more than most think.

posted by aacheson at 11:33 AM on October 27

wfrazerjr, I know of a LOT of people who were married and discovered they were gay after a while. I have an uncle in Dallas who fits this observation. I think this happens much more than the average hetero realizes. And...good for Sheryl. I hope this gives her some inner peace.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:42 AM on October 27

I think [accepting one's self as being gay later in life] happens much more than the average hetero realizes. I agree, and it will become more and more commonplace as the cultural stigma of being gay fades away.

posted by cl at 12:05 PM on October 27

Mr. Sulu weighs in.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 11:15 AM on October 28

Gives new meaning to "Beam me up, Scotty"

posted by willthrill72 at 11:43 AM on October 28

How so?

posted by yerfatma at 12:16 PM on October 28

I was thinking the same thing, yerfatma. Not very clever, was it?

posted by scully at 04:54 PM on October 28

Context-sensitive euphemism, I'm guessing. Kind of amusing in that sense.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:17 PM on October 30

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