Highlighting the talent and queerness in the WNBA

Written By Kayla Sterner, Co-Sports Editor

Queer women have been central to the Women’s National Basketball Association — where would the league be without the LGBTQ+ community? In 2022 the WNBA celebrated its 25th birthday, and during those years the league has become a very accepting place for the LGBTQ+ community. While many other leagues have shied away from the rainbow, the W has displayed it with pride.

It is hard to name a team that does not have a player that identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  And, let’s be real, there are players in the closet. (You can’t fool a gay person’s gaydar… if you know you know — but don’t force them out).

But enough jokes, let’s take a look at two gay women that showed us that queerness belongs in sports and had an impactful career on the court. If it weren’t for their courage to come out of the closet, many current players might feel the need to hide behind a mask.


Sue Wicks

Sue Wicks became the first openly gay active player in the WNBA when she came out of the closet in 2002, just before she retired from the league. The former first round pick played for New York Liberty from 1997-2002 and played for Rutgers from 1984-88. She was 29 when the league was founded and went on to play six seasons. After Wicks retired, she briefly joined the coaching staff at Rutgers. 

While at Rutgers, the 6-foot-3 forward was a three-time All-American and a three-time Atlantic-10 Player of the Year (1986, 1987, 1988). As a senior, she was the Naismith Player of the Year. On top of that, she has the all-time record for most rebounds and points at Rutgers. Wicks snagged 2,655 boards and 1,357 points during her career. 

 She also played professionally in Italy, Spain, Israel and Japan before being drafted in the inaugural WNBA draft. Before the W, playing overseas was the only option for women who wanted to play after their university years. When the women finally got a league, the men’s league had been around for nearly 50 years (insert eyeroll).

Today, many women in the WNBA are open about being part of the LGBTQ+ community and people are much more accepting of it, but Wicks came out at a time when inclusion was not welcome and players still felt the need to have hair, nails and makeup done to please men with a more “feminine” look. 

Per an interview with The Athletic, she expressed how she felt like she was lying to herself by not coming out and mentioned how other athletes warned her about coming out. She even had other athletes scared that she would out them and it would affect their career on the court.


Sheryl Swoopes

Sheryl Swoopes was the first person signed to the WNBA in the inaugural draft in 1997 and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Swoopes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, and a year later she was honored in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

A Texas native, she played for two years at South Plains College (1989-91) before she transferred to play near her hometown at Texas Tech (1991-93), where she led her team to an NCAA championship in 1993. Following her senior season, the Raiders retired her jersey. She scored 53 points in one game against Texas while playing for Texas Tech and scored 955 points in the 1993 season alone. 

Swoopes played for the Houston Comets for 11 years before she signed with the Seattle Storm in  2008. She was waived by Storm in 2009 but signed with the Tulsa Shock in 2011 at 40 years old. On the Comets, the 6-foot guard / forward had over 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals. She was the first three-time WNBA MVP (2000, 2002, 2003) and WNBA Defensive Play of the Year (2000, 2002, 2003). 

Swoopes, who came out as a lesbian in 2005, was previously married to her high school sweetheart, a man, and gave birth six weeks before the 1997 WNBA draft. That same season, she helped lead the Comets to a championship. She went on to win it again in 1998-99 and 2000.

She had been in a relationship with Alisa Scott, former basketball player and Houston Comets assistant coach until 2011. Now, she is married to a man, which shows sexuality is ever changing and should always be accepted. 


A big thank you to these women and all of the other LGBTQ+ athletes that showed that queer people can dominate in sports and should be accepted in the industry. Love is love.