Ya go on vacation, and all sorts of interesting things happen. Before we can talk about the games on the court, let’s talk about the games off it….
So, about Ms. Wiggins’ comments …and lack of further comment.(Amid backlash, Wiggins stands by her controversial comments)
Wiggins described what she said was a “very, very harmful” culture in the WNBA – one in which she contends she was bullied throughout her eight-year career.
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins said. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply.
Wiggins said she was disheartened by a culture in the WNBA that encouraged women to look and act like men in the NBA.
As many have said below, one is hard pressed to deny someone’s emotions or feelings. So let’s talk a little bit about bullying. As someone who uses theater as a teaching tool, primarily in schools, it’s not surprising that bullying is a topic that we’ve addressed. Per the stopbullying.gov site:
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
For instance, when we created a curriculum for early childhood students it included a character whose bullying actions escalated across a four-day residency.
- First, they mocked another character’s name (Yuki became Yucky, Mucky, Yuki)
- Then they mocked that character’s ability and moved to exclude him. (You can’t dance, you can’t even drum, really-you shouldn’t participate at all)
- Finally, they physically intimidated the character, mocking their fear
Because the bullied character often feels helpless, speaking up in their own defense is a huge hurdle. Our work looked an engaging the bystanders (the students in the classrooms) to 1) recognize the behavior of the bullies and the impact on the bullied and 2) move from a community of bystanders to a community of active protectors/defenders.
Bullying is not exclusive to the school environment. Some readers may be able to identify a bully in your workplace. Per the WBI, Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :
So, when Wiggins says she was bullied, it means that
- She felt disempowered
- She encountered aggressive behavior from multiple players and coaches across the league, including the staff of the teams she played for: Lynx, Shock (’13), Sparks (’14), Liberty (’15)
- She endured verbal threats and/or attacks
- She was excluded from groups
- Her work on the court was undermined
- She didn’t feel she could go to Human Resources to address her issues
- No one who witnessed what she was experiencing came to her aid
Again, I won’t deny what she says she experienced, but (even though this makes me sound like a denier) I’ve got to admit that when this story first broke my gut reaction was “what league was she talking about?”
If you’ve followed the WNBA since it’s inception, you’ll remember a huge initial support from the gay community. You’ll also remember huge frustration from the gay community about the league being unwilling to acknowledge/celebrate/recognize that support. There were plenty of discussions around who the league promoted and why. Simply put, it was straight women. And if they had kids? Even better. The consequences of the league’s “blind eye” was that many gay fans felt ignored and disrespected. The result? “You want my money but ignore who I am? Fine, I’ll give up my season tickets.”
As someone who semi-stalked the Liberty players during those early years, it was clear there were gay and straight women on the team. It also seemed clear, as far as I could tell, that the team was tight knit. There was also some “self-policing” when it came to public demonstrations of affection. I don’t know if this applied to the straight folks, but I do recall it becoming a bone of contention with one of the players and her partner in that she felt she was being silenced. Others on the team said it was not about “gay” or “straight,” it was about professional comportment.
When I was fortunate enough to be able to cover the Liberty (and, occasionally, other teams), if players weren’t talking about the game on the court they were talking about being role models – both to the fans and to the up-and-coming players. Early on in the league’s existence, it seemed players themselves were reluctant to speak about their sexuality. No doubt, some of that was connected to league pressure (real or perceived). Some of that had to do with place and time – “what does who I love have to do with my missed free throw?” Some of it had to do with not wanting to expose themselves to scrutiny and its possible repercussions.
Over the years, both society and the league have moved into a more open and inclusive stance. It seems like the younger players are more comfortable not only publicly acknowledging who they love, but actively engage the public in challenging discussions. Perhaps the dominant norm makes people uncomfortable – or jealous that attention is being given to someone else? Who knows….
But when Wiggins says “the WNBA that encouraged women to look and act like men in the NBA” I was flummoxed. Was she talking about on-court attitude and aggressiveness. But wasn’t that something she was known for? Perhaps it was clothing off court? So I thought I’d do some unscientific research focused on draft days since she entered the league – ’cause that’s the time the W would likely bring the most pressure to bear. I’ve put up the links, you decide if the league is encouraging the players to “look and act like men.”
While we’re waiting for Candice to answer questions about her statements, below are some reactions:
“I don’t know why someone would take the shots,” VanDerveer said. “The WNBA is a young league. It’s doing really well. It’s what we’ve experienced in women’s sports. … Women’s basketball is growing, but we still have a ways to go. We know this. It’s still a great game.”
Referring to Wiggins’ contention that 98 percent of WNBA players are gay, she said, “I don’t know that math was ever Candice’s strength. That to me sounds homophobic and negative.”
“Since 1996 when this league was founded, I’ve never in 20 years ever heard a player ever, ever, ever say anything remotely resembling what has been said by Candice Wiggins,” Auriemma said.
Mike T and Co. in the Washington Post: Mystics rebuke Candice Wiggins comments on bullying and sexuality in WNBA
“I thought it was irresponsible and inaccurate on her part, and I only see self-serving in it,” said Thibault, the winningest coach in league history. “She played long enough that if she had issues, those are things to bring to somebody’s attention. Number two, she talks about being called names, and I think if you go back and look at her writing, there is a reason for some of that.”
“She degraded and criticized a league that has always supported her and even gave her a platform on topics that directly affected her life, such as HIV,” [Natasha] Cloud wrote in an email from Australia, where she is playing during the WNBA offseason. “She disrespected and demeaned a certain group of women to whom sexual preferences are different than hers, backing every simple-minded stereotype out there about women’s sports.”
Imani Boyette: Sky’s Imani Boyette ‘disappointed’ in Candice Wiggins’ ‘gay’ comment and Dear Candice
First, I was sad because that was your reality. I’m sorry you were bullied and felt that way during your career. Bullying is serious and no one deserves it. I hope you know that says more about the people who chose to mistreat you than you yourself. I hope one day your love for this sport returns, even if only as a spectator. I don’t know you personally nor was I there so I can’t deny your experiences nor would I try to. But I will defend a league I grew up with and am now a part of. Have you or did you ever reach out to the union? Did you confront these women?
Candice, I’m disappointed in you. We should be careful of who we allow to share our stories. We must be sure they not only respect the other parties but do their due diligence and only print facts. You stated that, “98% of the women in the league are gay” – that’s not only false but it’s unfair. You retired last year, have you met all 144 of us and been privy to our private lives? In your “research” did you really find only 3 women were straight? Do you know that orientation is not binary? Do you understand what you’ve done? You’ve reinforced unfair stereotypes. A person’s orientation is their own and their business. Now, because of your article, it is no longer out of bounds to ask WNBA players about their sexuality. Do they ask any male stars in the NBA about their sexuality? Is it even a conversation?
Monique Currie: Perception is Real: Candice Wiggins’ Truth
I can say in my eleven seasons in the WNBA I’ve never witnessed the kind of bullying Wiggins describes in her interview. This does not mean it did not happen but I’m proud to be apart of a league that supports inclusion and celebrates all players regardless of their race, religion or sexuality. We are a family made up of players that love and respect the game of basketball. We are dedicated to growing the game and our league through integrity, honesty and hardwork. I feel awful that Candice had these experiences while playing in the WNBA but I encourage her to not only speak out about the negative aspects of her career but also shed light on how we can prevent this from ever happening again.
Wiggins said that many players were jealous of her because she is “heterosexual and straight, and [is] vocal in [her] identity as a straight woman”. That perception of course looks to have severely shaped her experience in the WNBA.
Well, I’m also a straight woman who was in a serious relationship throughout the course of my 6-year career (which would qualify as being “vocal in my identity as a straight woman”) and never ONCE was there an issue with that. Never once was there any form of jealousy or bullying. My boyfriend and I were not only welcomed with open arms but we both spent significant time with my teammates off the court.
Is it possible that I was the exception? Hardly.
“…I am not denying Candice her experience. I am truly sorry for any pain she has endured, but my time in the W has been very different,” Stewart tweeted. “I have found the WNBA to be one of the most affirming places you can be. Our league has been a leader on inclusion + progressive action… Let’s worry less about if 98% is “accurate” and ask why: Why does anybody care? Even if it was 100%, WHY DOES IT MATTER???”
DeLisha Milton-Jones, who won two WNBA titles and appeared in more games than any player in league history, said she was baffled by Wiggins’ remarks. “I know Candice as a sweet, intelligent young lady,” said Milton-Jones, who now is an assistant coach at Pepperdine. “I don’t want to take anything from her experiences while in the league, so I can only speak for what I experienced firsthand. And it’s in complete contradiction of what’s been stated by Candice.
“The WNBA has allowed many of us to live a dream. I pray that Candice does find peace with her life and is able to move forward without devaluing or diminishing what’s been priceless to so many others in the league.”
“I don’t want to discredit (Wiggins’) experience, if indeed she felt that,” Penicheiro said, per ESPN. “But ‘nobody cares about the WNBA’ and ’98 percent of the league is gay’ are completely false statements. So it’s harder for me to give her personal experience credibility when those things are completely false.”
The 31-year-old WNBA veteran was surprised to see the notifications on her phone last week. Something had happened to former WNBA player Candice Wiggins. She got her son settled in his high chair with cereal and apple juice and opened her laptop. The story was everywhere.
Wiggins told a newspaper in San Diego she had been bullied for being a straight woman in the WNBA, adding that the league was a “toxic” environment for her.
The veteran read the story twice, then three times.
“It was strange,” said the veteran, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I wanted to reach out and see how I could help. I felt terrible she went through that. But I was also a little mad. I played in the WNBA five seasons. I always felt supported. I always felt proud of what we were doing and what we stood for.”
“Of course, it concerns me if any of our players do not have a positive experience and I hope that anyone who feels uncomfortable would reach out to me or others in the league office.”
She added: “In my time with the league and my capacity as a fan before that, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a group of highly competitive women who are driven to succeed at the highest level on the court and constantly striving to help create opportunity for all members of their communities. In keeping with that, I’ve found our players to be earnest, heartfelt and eloquent in their responses to Candice’s comments and, as always, clear in their commitment to our league’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect.”
Mechelle: Bullying And Stereotypes In The WNBA
…the other thing about this is that it – I just have to say, this sort of demonizes LGBT people. Again, the idea that they were in this league as sort of predators and people who were mean to straight people and, you know, had formed their own kind of culture – I think those are really damaging stereotypes. And there’s been nothing that I’ve seen in covering the league since it started that would corroborate those.
“It’s nothing new to us. I guess in my experience with the WNBA, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before as far as the stigma,” Ogwumike said. “But when it comes to someone else’s experience, you can never speak to someone’s experience. I think as newly appointed president it’s definitely my job to represent the inclusiveness that we stand for.”
She said it hurt to hear someone had that type of experience — but thinks Wiggins could have expressed her concerns in a more constructive way “so that those who might have been the perpetrators or those that might be able to help can help in that situation.”
My second “What the hell” moment was when Baylor coach Kim Mulkey spouted off.
WATCH: Baylor’s Kim Mulkey sounds off concerning school’s reputation
Kim Mulkey blasts Baylor critics, defends university
Kim Mulkey gives awful post-game speech about Baylor scandal
‘Knock them … in the face’, Baylor coach says of parents afraid to enroll daughters
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey ‘tired of hearing’ about scandal scrutiny
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey defends school amid sexual assault scandal
Baylor’s Kim Mulkey: Knock Parents Concerned About Sexual Assault Scandal “Right In The Face”
Kim Mulkey offers defense of Baylor amid sex assault scandal by encouraging assault
What? Baylor Women’s Hoops Coach tells fans to Punch Baylor Critics??
Baylor Coach Under Fire For Controversial Comments About Bears’ Scandal
Kim Mulkey comments put Baylor’s reputation ahead of sexual-assault concerns
Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey so wrong to tell fans to attack BU critics
Kim Mulkey’s remarks knock Baylor one step back
OU women’s basketball: Oklahoma’s Coale ‘disappointed’ in Kim Mulkey’s comments
Baylor’s Kim Mulkey was out of line with her comments on Saturday
Kim Mulkey should be ashamed of herself for post-game speech about Baylor scandal
Rape victims advocate: Baylor coach Kim Mulkey ‘like Art Briles in a woman’s body’ after comments
After Baylor Is Hit With Lawsuit Alleging 52 Rapes by Football Team, Basketball Coach Leaves Parents Fuming
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey walks back her message about sexual-assault scandal
Baylor’s Mulkey apologizes, clarifies remarks in ESPNW column
Kim Mulkey regrets ‘knock them right in the face’ statement but stands by defense of Baylor
Mulkey clarifies her Saturday remarks
I call bullsh*t. You put your University over your students. You want me to believe differently? Get your azz on the front lines and advocate for a clear, transparent vetting of your athletic department.
“I think [the BU regents’] silence speaks volumes about their disdain and disregard for the concerns of the Baylor family and the greater Waco community,” Trotter said. “If they came down from their ivory tower, they might realize the level of mistrust they’ve created among all of us.”
Strong comments from two strong-willed women, each making some valid points. And if Mulkey accurately sums up the exasperation many feel in wanting to move on, perhaps she can use her considerable influence in the Baylor family and among leadership to prompt the answers that faithful alumni such as Trotter say are overdue. Mulkey may be “in the know,” but many are not. Nor are many likely to move on so long as doubt about Baylor’s past dogs its future.
Okay. Now that we got that off my chest, let’s get back to celebrating the game on the court.