By Julissa Catalan
In the LGBT community, the month of June is widely anticipated because it is LGBT Pride Month. This year, the WNBA has joined in the celebration by making a landmark contribution to LGBT rights awareness, becoming the first major league sport to market to the group, with its new campaign, WNBA Pride.
“GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network] and our chapters are proud to continue our partnership with the WNBA during LGBT Pride Month,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “The WNBA is a sports leader in creating diverse and inclusive environments for all players and fans, and the league’s commitment to supporting the LGBT community is sending a powerful message of respect to youth across the country.”
Back in 2012, a marketing study of the WNBA’s fan base determined that lesbians make up 25 percent of WNBA televised-game viewers, while 21 percent have at least attended a game.
The campaign will include a new LGBT-targeted site, WNBA Pride, which will host LGBT content as well as event and game schedules.
Players will also be participating in Pride-themed games and wearing Pride shooting jerseys. A nationally televised Pride game between Tulsa and Chicago is scheduled for June 22.
All 12 teams will be participating in some form of advocacy, be it Pride festivals and parades, nonprofit awareness events, or advertising.
Openly gay Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner says she will be wearing rainbow-colored shoes during LGBT Pride Month in support of the campaign.
“I’m so glad that we’re finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA,” she said. “Our league being the first to make that push and bring more attention to it is great. We’ll pave the way and show it’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014—it’s about time.”
It seems the WNBA is capitalizing on the momentum of fellow professional athletes who have recently come out publicly, one after the other.
Most recently, Michael Sam—who made his announcement in February when he was still a student at the University of Missouri—made history by becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL when he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the NFL draft.
Previously, Jason Collins made history when he became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the United States’ Big Four sports leagues with the Brooklyn Nets.
There seems to be a deep sense of community among openly gay athletes, as they continuously show support for one another. It is no surprise that this same sense of community is being embraced by the WNBA, and extended to the fans.