Sue Bird on 'stick to sports': Female athletes tried but 'nobody would let us'

Seattle Storm star Sue Bird has found her voice and is one of the many outspoken players in the WNBA. So when she was asked about the idea athletes should “stick to sports,” she didn’t hold back about how that has gone for women.

“It really kind of hit me one day,” Bird said on the “Old Man and the Three” podcast with the New Orleans Pelicans’ JJ Redick and Tommy Alter. “Who is anybody right now to tell us as female athletes to just stick to sports? We've actually tried to do that. Nobody would let us."

Bird on ‘stick to sports’: We tried, you denied

Alter asked Bird and Redick about politicians in Washington attacking basketball players in the bubbles rather than focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic or related issues.

That’s when Bird answered in regards to women in the WNBA and how they tried to “stick to sports.” But it was always made political by others.

Her full answer, which starts around the 40-minute mark:

“One day I just woke up [and] this kind of hit me. All politicians are trying to say to us is ‘keep politics out of sports. Ugh, this is where I want to go to just watch a game.’ And I’m like, I’m not the one that brought it in here.’ You know? Because as female athletes all we are are judged based on everything except the game we’re playing. We’re being judged because we’re women. We’re being judged because we’re gay. We’re being judged because we’re black. All of these political things are being brought to us and that’s how we’ve had to find our way in this life, in this WNBA-trying-to-be-a-business life. We’ve had to battle that. It’s never just been about basketball for us. Then to kind of flip it now and tell us not to be political, quote-unquote?

“By the way, obviously we all know this is a moral issue. These are people’s lives, the women in our league, this is directly impacting them. This isn’t some trying to get a policy that’s going to help someone’s pocket or something like that. This is direct, their lives are affected.

“It really kind of hit me one day. Who is anybody right now to tell us as female athletes to just stick to sports? We've actually tried to do that. Nobody would let us. And so here we are, standing up for ourselves, which is something that’s very natural for us at this point. And now, oh now, we’re the one bringing the politics in? That’s my take on that. It’s ridiculous.”

WNBA players are increasingly fighting back against the burden levied at them on social media. The Washington MysticsAerial Powers lit into three-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala earlier this month about respect and the Dallas Wings’ Marina Mabrey created “This is my kitchen” T-shirts with a photo of the basketball court.

Bird on combating Loeffler’s smart attack

Sue Bird in the famous orange WNBA logo hoodie on the sidelines.
Sue Bird said the WNBA and its athletes tried to stick to sports, but politics was brought to them first. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Bird also explained the situation with Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, the Georgia senator who is running for her seat this election. Loeffler took issue with the league and players association’s announcement it would dedicate its season to “Say Her Name” and Breonna Taylor. Omitting social justice from the truncated 2020 season was a “non-starter,” Bird and fellow players have repeatedly said.

She called Loeffler’s tactics smart, even though she didn’t agree, and said it was why players wore T-shirts supporting her opponent, Raphael Warnock, for the seat. They spoke directly with Warnock to make sure where he stood on issues aligned with the players’ views. And that way it didn’t play into Loeffler’s game for more support and votes in the race.

And of course Bird shared her favorite Kobe Bryant story, which involves angrily ripping out a newspaper clipping of Paul Pierce.

Bird’s Storm (10-1) squad is safely leading the WNBA standings with her and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart back from injury. Bird has missed a handful of games in the “wubble” out of caution for a knee bruise. She’s averaging 10.1 points and 4.6 assists in 21.4 minutes over the seven games.

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