Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird said U.S. women’s soccer players are better supported by fans because of their perception as “cute little white girls,” in contrast to less popular WNBA players.
“Even though we’re female athletes playing at a high level, our worlds — the soccer world and the basketball world are just totally different,” Bird told CNN in an interview Sunday.
“To be blunt it’s the demographic of who’s playing. Women’s soccer players generally are cute little white girls while WNBA players, we’re all shapes and sizes: a lot of Black, gay, tall women. There’s maybe an intimidation factor and people are quick to judge it and put it down.”
Bird, a 40-year-old veteran who won her fourth WNBA title earlier this month with the Storm, has been dating retired U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe since 2017. Bird spent a majority of her professional career keeping her sexual orientation private before publicly coming out in 2017.
Bird pointed blame to a societal stereotype and noted that the WNBA has struggled to work against that stereotype.
“It’s how society and how the outside world is willing to accept the cute girl next door, but not willing to accept, or embrace, or not judge these basketball players who are tall, Black, gay,” Bird said. “That is where the issue is. Where I feel like I’ve learned throughout that process is you have to be who you are. You have to be to be true to who you are and authentic.”
Rapinoe, a star of the 2019 World Cup team that generated mainstream national attention, shared similar views in a recent Players Tribune article where she wrote: “This country has a deep history of racism, and a deep history of homophobia. And if you look at the players in the ‘W’ (WNBA) most of them are Black, and a lot of them are gay. … Where’s that same energy for the best women’s basketball players on the planet? Where’s that energy for the women’s sports that — instead of scanning cute and white and straight — scan tall and black and queer??”
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