June 21, 2024 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: What Pride means to WNBA players

Katie Barnes: 'To see how much progress there has been in terms of embracing queerness ... I think that is really important'

On Friday, The Next’s Jackie Powell welcomed ESPN’s Katie Barnes to Locked On Women’s Basketball for a special Pride Month episode. The pair discussed the history of queerness in the WNBA and what’s next for more and better representation in the league.

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Powell began by asking Barnes why Pride Month is a uniquely big deal in the WNBA compared with other sports leagues. Barnes responded:

“I think the biggest thing is that the W and its players have decided that Pride Month is a big deal. The WNBA became the first major sports league in the United States to adopt a a leaguewide Pride initiative in 2014. And that was a really big deal when the league did that, and I think [it] speaks to the unique combination of values and identity that’s present in the W. But I think the best answer is just that they decided that they were going to make it a big deal. And it’s been a pretty important tenet to conversations and activism among players and, I think, those who work in the league office.”

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Later in the episode, Barnes talked about how attitudes toward queerness in the WNBA have changed even in the past 11 years, since players such as Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon were drafted in 2013:

“From a queer representation perspective, that draft was really pivotal in a number of ways. … Griner had come out right before she was drafted and wore a suit. And that was an incredible moment for not just representation, but for pushing the league, because high-profile players were not coming out publicly at that particular moment in time, even if they might have been out privately. And so to see how much progress there has been in terms of embracing queerness in the league among fans, among leaguewide initiatives and then of course among the players, I think that is really important.”

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