There was a time when the WNBA, like much of American society, was resolutely homophobic. The league would highlight straight players with children and marriages in marketing materials, while queer athletes, such as pioneer Sue Wicks, felt snubbed.
But then something changed. In the wake of Jason Collins and Michael Sam coming out, the WNBA started to change its tune on LGBTQ rights. It began to support queer players and encourage them to be open about their sexuality. It started Pride parades and events. The WNBA became more inclusive, and the players echoed its message off the court.
Now, many WNBA players are open about their sexuality and champion inclusion in the league. Seimone Augustus, Sheryl Swoopes, Sue Bird, and Layshia Clarendon are just a few of the players to come out during their careers. And as WNBA celebrates its 25th anniversary, there is no doubt the league wouldn't be where it is today without the contributions of these out players.
The WNBA has been a platform for some of the best players in the world to showcase their talents. It has also been a remarkable platform for LGBTQ players to show their activism off the court, too. The league has celebrated its top 25 players of all time, and nine out athletes make the list, more than one-third of the total number of players to ever play in the WNBA.
Aubrey Grey, an attorney in Texas, was giddy when she first watched a WNBA game in high school. Now, she follows the league closely and roots for multiple teams. She also identifies as gay, and she says her connection to the players grows stronger because of their visibility.