The WNBA has become the first professional sports league to market specifically to the LGBT community. The website www.wnba.com/pride is telling stories of the WNBA players who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Teams are participating in local pride festivals and advertising on lesbian media. The WNBA will serve as the presenting partner of the Provincetown Memorial Day Weekend taking place May 22 – May 26 and Women of Color Weekend taking place May 29 – June 1. and players are cooperating with grassroots LGBT organizations. Games in June will be Pride-themed, including a nationally televised Pride game between Tulsa and Chicago on June 22.
"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 said. "This is one of those moments in the 'W' where everybody comes together."
It's taken the league 18 years to take the step, though it had discussions about the possibility previously. Teams have done some promotion locally, sponsoring booths at gay pride events and hosting groups at games.
"We embrace all our fans and it's a group that we know has been very, very supportive. 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," she said.
Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league's games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.
“Some of my favorite memories are courtside with my wife and kids cheering on our favorite WNBA teams. For years, the WNBA has been a leading force in building support for equality on the court and in the stands," said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "The WNBA Pride platform will raise the bar in helping to end anti-LGBT bias in sports, while also celebrating the tremendous value LGBT athletes and fans bring to the game."
Openly gay Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner is also excited about the initiative and plans to wear rainbow colored shoes during all June games. Griner was at the 2013 GLAAD Media Awards, just after being the number one draft pick for the WNBA. You can see her video here: