It’s not what should have been a surprise that was the surprise.In fact, it was exactly the opposite.
In the league known for lesbian jokes – though it seems most women’s professional leagues have the title of “lesbian leagues” – the WNBA’s Sheryl Swoopes – five-time All-Star, three-time and reigning MVP, three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion as a member of the Houston Comets – came out Wednesday, announcing she was a lesbian and is in a relationship, for that matter.
That being said, with the nature of her announcement, everyone should be like, “Well, who cares?”
First off, kudos to you, Sheryl. You have the bravery and the courage to do something most can’t, for whatever their reasons may be.
The real surprise was Swoopes’ reason.
“My reason for coming out now isn’t to be some sort of hero,” Swoopes said in an exclusive interview with ESPN the Magazine. “It’s not something that I want to throw in people’s faces. I’m just at a point in my life where I’m tired of having to pretend to be somebody I’m not.
“I’m tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about, about the person I love. Some people might say my coming out after just winning the MVP Award is heroic, and I understand that. And I know there are going to be some negative things said, too. But it doesn’t change who I am. I can’t help who I fall in love with. No one can.”
In a sense, you want to congratulate this woman – this woman who once was married and has a child – for finding out who she is and what she wants.
She took the egotism that can come with sports stardom and used it to her advantage.
She did this for nobody but herself, and you should applaud her for it.
But perhaps the bravery and the courage will only go so far, because it seems that it’s easier for prominent women in sports to out themselves without the fear of ridicule and persecution from teammates or fans.
They’ve been doing it for years already.
Tennis has had Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, and while not outrightly spoken freely on the course, it’s quite known that many LPGA players are gay.
Everything should still boil down to who cares, right?
Then it should be printed in large bold letters: Sheryl Swoopes is an amazing basketball player with great talent and poise and has earned every award and commendation she has in her trophy case.
But it won’t.
Her announcement was about finding her identity, becoming who she wanted to be so she “wouldn’t have to pretend to be somebody” she’s not.
But now it won’t be about that.
Now, what should be said about Swoopes won’t be said. Every time she makes a basket, or every time she lines up for a shot or for a game, it’ll be Sheryl Swoopes, The Lesbian – not Sheryl Swoopes, The Basketball Player.
She could be called a pioneer, but don’t we want dominant women in sports to show that they can be just as good as men, not that we need to know what their sexual orientation is so we know it’s OK to cheer for them?
That’s a shame. That’s not what she wanted.
Straight people don’t have pride marches, and when Alex Rodriquez hits a home run, Joe Buck doesn’t announce that he is a heterosexual and, oh yeah, he has a child as well.
It’s just not the same for men, not to dissuade from anything that Swoopes has said or done.
Gay men in sports will not be accepted for years to come, almost to the point where I probably won’t even be alive when, and if, it happens.
This is a given.
Sheryl Swoopes having the identity she wants isn’t.
And that’s a shame, whether or not you’re surprised.