Sue Bird on USWNT's favorable coverage compared to WNBA: 'Soccer players generally are cute little white girls'

Chris Cwik
·3 min read

Sue Bird thinks the WNBA and its players deserve more credit for what they were able to accomplish in 2020. Bird compared the WNBA’s lack of attention to how the United States women’s national team was treated in 2019, telling CNN she believes the difference is a matter of the demographics in each sport.

Bird believes the reason the USWNT received more praise and respect is because, “Soccer players, generally, are cute little white girls.”

“To be completely blunt, but also kind of simple,” Bird explained. “Soccer players, generally, are cute little white girls. And I think basketball players, we’re all shapes and sizes. We have ... 70 to 80 percent Black women. A lot of gay women. We’re tall. We’re big. And I think there’s just maybe like 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 expands on that point, saying she believes the difference isn’t due to how the sports are marketed, but how society perceives the players.

“How society and how the outside world is willing to accept the cute girl next door, but not willing to accept or embrace or, I guess, not judge these basketball players, who are tall, Black, gay. That’s kind of, to me, where the issue is.”

While those quotes make it look like Bird is taking a shot at her girlfriend — USWNT star Megan Rapinoe — that’s not the case. Rapinoe proposed the same argument in an article on The Players’ Tribune in October.

Rapinoe: Racism, homophobia impact WNBA’s perception

In that piece, Rapinoe argues that WNBA players should be regarded as more than superheroes for what they were able to accomplish in 2020. The WNBA has been in front on a number of racial and social issues, and carried that over into the 2020 season, which they dedicated to Breonna Taylor. In a year where nearly every major sports league has seen ratings decline, WNBA ratings jumped significantly.

Rapinoe believes WNBA players deserve more credit for that, but don’t get it due to racism and homophobia, according to The Players’ Tribune.

This country has a deep history of racism, and a deep history of homophobia.

And if you look at the players in the W: Most of them are Black, and a lot of them are gay.

She explains that she’s proud of what the USWNT accomplished in 2019, but that the conversation surrounding the team was incomplete.

And what I mean by that is: When it comes to U.S. women’s soccer, the general perception is that — let’s face it — we’re the white girls next door. The straight, “cute,” “unthreatening,” “suburban” white girls next door. It’s not actually who we are — the WNT’s racial diversity, though not yet where it needs to be, is improving every year. And, you know, breaking news ... I’m gay. But by and large, that’s the perception. And it’s certainly how we’re marketed to a lot of people.

Rapinoe continues by saying she believes feminism should extend “from race to class to religion to gender identity to sexual orientation to everything in between.” She doesn’t want people to only buy into the type of feminism that extends to “white girls next door” because that’s how people perceive the USWNT.

Sue Bird looking to continue dominant run in 2020 Olympics

After leading the Seattle Storm to another championship, Bird will take a short break before prepping for the delayed 2020 Olympics. Bird has won four Olympic gold medals with Team USA in the past, and will be looking for her fifth gold medal in 2021.

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