The WNBA is launching a new campaign to target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered fans. According to reports, the new marketing efforts mark the first time a professional sports league has specifically targeted the LGBT community.
The campaign will include team participation in local pride festivals and parades, hosting grassroots awareness events and advertising with lesbian media, the Associated Press reports. “For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA President Laurel Richie says. “This is one of those moments in the ‘W’ where everybody comes together.”
The new marketing strategy means the WNBA plans to capitalize on something it’s known for years: the LGBT community makes up a significant portion of the league’s fan base. According to a 2012 study, 25 percent of women who identify as lesbian watch the women’s professional basketball at home.
“We embrace all our fans and it’s a group that we know has been very, very supportive,” Richie adds. “I won’t characterize it as ‘Why did it take so long?’ For me it’s been we’ve been doing a lot of terrific initiatives. The piece that’s different this year is unifying it.”
Brittney Griner, a WNBA athlete who publicly identifies as a lesbian, says she’s happy the league is finally embracing the community. “We’ll pave the way and show its fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it. It’s 2014, it’s about time,” she tells AP. Griner, who served as grand marshal of the Phoenix Pride parade last season, currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
The league’s first big event will be a nationally-televised pride game between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22.
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1. Former WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes
Swoopes announced she was gay in 2005, now she is reportedly engaged to a man. Swoopes is said to identify as bi-sexual. (AP)
2. WNBA player Brittney Griner
The Phoenix Mercury’s #1 pick in the NBA draft, said she was never in hiding, but she officially confirmed she was a lesbian in April 2013. (AP)
3. Former NBA player John Amaechi
Former NBA player, John Amaechi, shocked the sports world when he announced he was gay in February 2007, he retired from the NBA in 2003. (AP)
4. Legendary Tennis player Billie Jean King
A tennis great, she came out in 1981. (AP)
5. Boxer Orlando Cruz
Orlando Cruz came out as gay in October 2012. (AP)
6. Former NFL player Kwame Harris
Kwame Harris announced he was gay in March 2013, after having legal problems with an ex-boyfriend. He retired from the NFL in 2009. (AP)
7. Former Olympic diver Greg Louganis
In a 1995 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Louganis spoke publicly for the first time about being gay and HIV-positive. (AP)
8. Former MLB outfielder Glenn Burke
The late Glenn Burke, revealed he was gay after his playing career was over. (AP)
9. Former Tennis star Martina Navratalova
A tennis legend, she announced she was gay in 1981. (AP)
10. Former Soccer player Justin Fashanu
Fashanu was a professional soccer player in England, Australia, and Canada to name a few. He announced he was gay while still being an active player. (AP)
11. Esera Tuaolo
Former NFL player, Esera Tuaolo, announced he was gay in 2002 after he retired from the NFL.
12. Megan Rapinoe
Rapinoe of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team came out in 2012. (AP)