WNBA legend Sue Bird says the beleaguered league has always had trouble attracting mainstream viewers because most of the women are “tall, Black, gay.”
Contrast this, Bird says, with the more demure and photogenic women’s soccer league, which is full of players who are predominantly “cute and White and straight.”
“To be completely blunt, but also kind of simple, soccer players generally are cute little White girls. And I think basketball players, we’re all shapes and sizes,” said Bird, who just won her fourth championship with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. “It’s 70 [to] 80 percent Black women, a lot of gay women. We’re tall; we’re big. And I think there’s just maybe this intimidation factor with that. People are quick to talk about it, judge it, put it down. And soccer, you just don’t see that just based on how they look.”
Bird, 40, is in a relationship with girlfriend Megan Rapinoe, the MVP of the U. S. Women’s National Soccer Team who also just came off a World Cup championship win this past summer. Bird was echoing Rapinoe’s dismay at the WNBA’s historic troubles to grow its fanbase, which is far smaller than that of women’s soccer.
“Where’s that same energy for the best women’s basketball players on the planet?? Where’s that energy for the women’s sports that — instead of scanning cute and White and straight — scan tall and Black and queer?” Rapinoe wrote in the Players Tribune magazine.
Bird and Rapinoe are staunch supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and were vocal about trying to get justice for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Flip the page to see what Bird told CNN about her beloved WNBA.