GLAAD RESPONDS TO OUT OLYMPIAN AND WNBA STAR SUE BIRD CHOSEN TO LEAD TEAM USA’S DELEGATION AND CARRY THE U.S. FLAG AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES TOKYO 2020 OPENING CEREMONY

Bird’s selection by a vote of her Team USA teammates is another milestone of LGBTQ visibility at the Games, which feature a record number of out athletes, at 162 and counting
July 21, 2021

GLAAD: “Sue Bird is a true champion on the court and for equality, including taking memorable stands for racial justice, gender equity and LGBTQ representation. To have her lead Team USA’s delegation at the Opening Ceremony, one of the most watched events in the world, and be selected by her peers for the honor, is a powerful signal of LGBTQ acceptance to viewers globally and here in the U.S. Seeing Sue carry the flag for her country will be an unforgettable moment for Olympic and LGBTQ history, and a milestone on the road for justice and equality for all LGBTQ people.”

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the selection of out WNBA star and four-time Olympic gold medalist, Sue Bird, to lead Team USA’s delegation at the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Games in Tokyo on Friday.

Bird and baseball Olympian (and former Olympic speedskater) Eddy Alvarez were chosen by a vote of Team USA athletes. They are the first duo to lead the delegation into the Opening Ceremony, carrying the flag of the United States. 613 athletes were named to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, with more than 230 set to walk in Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

Statement from GLAAD Chief Communications Officer, Rich Ferraro:
“Sue Bird is a true champion on the court and for equality, including taking memorable stands for racial justice, gender equity and LGBTQ representation. To have her lead Team USA’s delegation at the Opening Ceremony, one of the most watched events in the world, and be selected by her peers for the honor, is a powerful signal of LGBTQ acceptance to viewers globally and here in the U.S. Seeing Sue carry the flag for her country will be an unforgettable moment for Olympic and LGBTQ history, and a milestone on the road for justice and equality for all LGBTQ people.”

Bird is among a record number of out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo and featured in a guide for journalists covering the Games, produced by GLAAD, Athlete Ally and Pride House Tokyo. According to Outsports, at least 162 LGBTQ athletes are in Tokyo, more than all previous Olympics combined.

USA Basketball reported Bird's response to the honor and acknowledgement of athletes such as Dawn Staley, who now coaches Team USA:

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected the flag bearer for Team USA,” said Bird. “I know what that means, because I got to witness Dawn Staley go through it when she was selected in 2004. It’s an honor that is bigger than the moment in that you’ve been selected by your fellow Team USA athletes to represent the entire delegation, and it will last forever. Also, in the moment, I got to witness what it was to lead Team USA into the Opening Ceremony, and it’s an incredible feeling and once again, such a huge honor. Also, I know this isn’t about me. This is about all the players who either came before me and set the tone for what the USA Basketball women’s program is now, and also the players that I’ve been fortunate enough to play with. So, it’s not just about me. It’s representing all of them.”

Bird led the WNBA’s efforts for racial and social justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police last year. She has also worked to raise awareness for equitable pay for female athletes as well as support and coverage of women’s sports.

Bird’s entry in the GLAAD/Athlete Ally/Pride House Tokyo Guide:

Sue Bird (she/her, Team USA, Basketball) is an American professional basketball player for the Seattle Storm and a member of Team USA Women’s Basketball. Bird was drafted by the Storm first overall in the 2002 WNBA draft and is considered to be one of the greatest players in WNBA history. She is an out lesbian and engaged to soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Bird is an Athlete Ally Ambassador

Bird has four out teammates on USA Basketball as well: Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, and Diana Taurasi. Stefanie Dolson will compete in 3x3 basketball.  

The Games also feature the world’s first out transgender athletes to qualify and compete: Powerlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand is the first out transgender athlete to qualify for the Games, among more than 54,000 Olympians and Paralympians who have made it to the Olympics in the last 17 years. BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe is the first openly transgender woman to join the U.S. Olympic team, and is an alternate for the BMX Elite Women’s National Team, which is included for the first time in this year’s Olympics. Quinn, a soccer player on Canada’s National Women’s Soccer Team, came out as transgender and nonbinary in September 2020, making them the first known out nonbinary Olympian.