In an interview with espnW, WNBA legend Sue Bird revealed publicly for the first time what she has known since playing point guard for UConn and family and friends have known for years: She is gay.
After nearly publicly acknowledging that fact on numerous occasions, including recent times at the 2016 Summer Olympics and upon fellow WNBA star Elena Delle Donne’s own revelation last summer, Bird felt now was the time to tell espnW she was in a relationship with U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
“I’m gay,” she told the website. “Megan’s my girlfriend. … These aren’t secrets to people who know me. I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me.”
Bird, 36, is hardly the first WNBA player to come out as gay. This is not the bombshell that was Jason Collins’ announcement in 2013. At least for the general public. For her it is important, though, and that is all that counts. And that that is all that counts is quite remarkable, because it means progress for society’s acceptance and another step forward for a league that has led the charge for LGBTQ rights.
This is not to say the WNBA is a fully enlightened workplace, as evidenced by Candice Wiggins recently claiming she was bullied for being straight in a league that she believes to be 98 percent gay, so there is still work to be done, but Bird should still be celebrated for the courage it takes to come out in 2017.
Even before her own public announcement, Bird stood in support of those who blazed a trail for her. “It’s more about stigmas than anything else, and I think with those stigmas you have people who are going to be judged,” she told USA Today’s Sam Amick last year. “I think on the men’s side, they’re not quite there yet. Jason Collins, for him to do that, particularly in the basketball world, he was the one who kind of broke down the barrier. And maybe in the future, it’ll change. But I think right now there’s still that stigma. I would love for it to change, because it’s really not that big of a deal in all reality.”
While Bird may not be the first openly gay WNBA player, she may be the most accomplished. Her résumé includes two NCAA championships, two WNBA titles, four Olympic gold medals and four straight EuroLeague crowns. She is currently in her 15th season on the Seattle Storm since being selected No. 1 overall by the franchise in 2002, and she will make her 10th All-Star appearance when the New York native’s adopted home city hosts the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday.
Her relationship with Rapinoe also makes them arguably the most powerful couple in female sports. Rapinoe has played in two Olympics and a pair of World Cups for the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning gold at both the 2012 London Olympics and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 32-year-old midfielder has also led the Seattle Reign to a pair of National Women’s Soccer League finals. She led the University of Portland to an undefeated season and an NCAA title as a freshman in 2005.
Rapinoe came out publicly as gay in a 2012 magazine article. Her relationship with Bird reportedly started with a conversation at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and they both play professionally in Seattle.
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