WNBA to market to LGBT community

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WNBA to market to LGBT community

By Doug Feinberg AP Writer

This image provided by the WNBA shows a t-shirt that is part of a campaign the WNBA is lauching to market specifically to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. It’s the first league to design such a campaign. The marketing push begins with the launch of a website on Thursday, May 22, 2014, and the signature event will be a nationally televised “pride” game between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. (AP Photo/WNBA)

This image provided by the WNBA shows a t-shirt that is part of a campaign the WNBA is lauching to market specifically to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. It’s the first league to design such a campaign. The marketing push begins with the launch of a website on Thursday, May 22, 2014, and the signature event will be a nationally televised “pride” game between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. (AP Photo/WNBA)

NEW YORK  — The WNBA is launching a campaign to market specifically to the LGBT community, a move that makes it the first pro league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered fans to its games.

With the campaign, the WNBA is capitalizing on what it has quietly known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base. The difference now is that the league is talking about it publicly and making it a deliberate part of its marketing strategy.

The effort, which begins with the launch of a website Wednesday, includes having teams participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events, and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised Pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.

“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.

Rick Welts, who was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the NBA when the WNBA first started in 1997, said that when the league began executives figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.

“We guessed very wrong on that,” said Welts, who is the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors and became the highest ranking executive in men’s sports to publicly acknowledge he’s gay in 2011. “Maybe we should have known better. I think from its outset, the WNBA attracted a fan with different interests than our profile of an NBA fan.

“I remember sitting in a few meetings where we had really interesting thoughtful discussions of: Should we be proactive marketing to the LGBT community? What does that say if we do? We certainly didn’t want to position the league of being exclusionary to anyone. What were we saying if we did it more proactively? Society and sports culture is very different today than it was back then. Teams were trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

Brittney Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified themselves as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community. Griner, who was the No. 1 pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the draft in 2013, plans on wearing rainbow-colored shoes during the month of June in support of the initiative.

“I’m so glad that we’re finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA,” said Griner, who served as grand marshall of the Phoenix Pride parade last season. “Our league being the first to make that push and bring more attention to it is great. 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.”

The league’s campaign comes after a wave of recent announcements from players who are identifying themselves publicly as gay. NBA player Jason Collins became the first player in men’s professional basketball to come out and played with the Nets. Former Missouri player Michael Sam, who came out in print and televised interviews earlier this year, was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. And Derrick Gordon, a UMass baskeball player, recently described his experience as a gay Division I player.

That helps make the timing for the WNBA’s decision right, said Robert Boland, academic chair of the sports management program at NYU’s Tisch Center.

“Sports has a natural hesitance to embrace highly controversial issues. I think we’ve lived through a period where sport was nonpolitical. We’re in a different era now,” he said.

“This is a group where there is a natural affinity and marketing affinity. It’s a recognition of where the world is today. I’d be shocked if there was any backlash.”

Rebecca Lobo, who played in the league for six seasons and has been a broadcaster for the last decade, has seen a change from when the league began in 1997.

“It’s culturally more acceptable now than it was when it first started,” she said. “The league has been around for so many years they can do these sort of things without worrying about what some people might think.”

It wasn’t always that way.

“For a long time they were happy to have those lesbians fill those seats in the stands, but not willing for a long time to embrace the fan base,” Professor Emeritus in the Social Justice Education Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Pat Griffin said. “I attribute that to the homophobia, fear that somehow acknowledging the fan base would encourage other fans not to go to games. What they’ve learned is that the fan doesn’t keep other people from going to games.”


10 Comments on “WNBA to market to LGBT community”

  1. Haven’t they always marketed to lesbians? Most of the female coaches and a good proportion of the players are lesbian. Why do they have to make a special announcement/day for something that has already been in place for years?

  2. Last Season I went to a WNBA game for the first time ever. Eventhough the game itself was a very good one,one who has the holy spirit can easily sense the effeminate spirit present throughout the arena.It seems like some of the people who worked in the arena was either gay or lesbian. Some of the people who attended the game was making a specticle of themselves because they where sodomites.The sodomites was broadcasting to everybody who was straight in that arena ” here I am and don’t care about youuuuu!” I’m quite sure the wnba does have straight women in the league but it appears that they will be overshadowed by this effeminate presence. And I’m quite sure that some of the sodomites will try to indoctrinate some of the straight ones or face being ostrisized.

  3. This madness is getting more and more ridiculous as time goes on. “We’ll participate in pride parades.” Why would those actions make you proud? The bible tells us what comes before the fall. Stop the nonsense.

  4. This isn’t surprising. There are gay coaches and players in the wnba. They want to make it seem being gay is a good thing. We just need to pray for them.

  5. I used to watch WNBA when it wasn’t so manly NOW I will never watch it, this dumb idea will gain some fans in exchange of losing other fans. Just an excuse to promote LGBT.

  6. I hope the real, no compromising, christian WNBA women stand strong for Christ and don’t participate in these gay parades or other activities.

  7. Aren’t all female sports players lesbian pretty much by default once they reach a certain age or level? I mean it’s ok when a girl is in elementary school playing sports but once she becomes a woman around the age of 11-12 and up she shouldn’t be playing sports but focusing on womanly things such as how to cook, clean,dress,act, etc in order to be a supportive wife to her husband in the future. Heterosexual women naturally outgrow sports by default as they mature but lesbians remain immature since they’re emotionally stunted and never grow up. As a result regardless of whether a woman identifies as straight, lesbian, bi if she’s adamantly playing sports in order to progress into a career she’s lesbian by default.

    How many straight college, professional female solo/team sports players do you see? They practically don’t exist especially in the NBA. It’s obvious all the woman in the NBA are lesbians just by looking at them. Why would a straight man want to watch a bunch of lesbians wishing they were men when he can watch real men play the game at the highest level? So of course the WNBA is going to publicly go to their most ardent supporters, who are homosexuals since they are one in the same.

  8. 1 Corinthians 6:9
    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    The Holy Scriptures speaks for itself, can’t get mad and call it hate speech because Christians believe in the whole Holy Word of God.

    Should there be a pride day for all of the above sins that the Holy Scriptures said would not inherit the kingdom of God? And/or getting calls, congrats, tweets, because they are proud of their sins and wickedness, it’s a shame!!!!

    The problem is no one has or is willing to take a stand for the Word of God publicly or privately. All the high profile “preacher” that are on TV and have a wide audience are afraid to preach on/or against sin (worry about their cash flows). Their messages are about 7 steps to a better you, etc., no one talks about steps to salvation or the process of sanctification. They don’t want to step on any toes, but if you preach the unadulterated word of God you/the Word of God will step on toes whether you want to or not.

    There are a lot of Christian women in the WNBA but few will speak up and take a stand. The only one that I know of would be Sophia Young of the Silver Stars (google her) , she spoke out against same sex marriages, and because of that the President of the WNBA and players are against her, we need to keep her in our prayers.

    We have a take me as I am, don’t judge kind of religion going on that is not scripture. Can you imagine as a born-again believer in the WNBA, on a game day being asked to wear the LGBT t-shirt and play with LGBT ball,……what would they do? That would be a great way to take a stand not to wear or use this particular product…we will soon see. It’s like the WNBA is forcing the LGBT agenda on the players, fans and public at large.

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