Sophia Young is a three-time WNBA all-star, an All-American while at Baylor University and a fan favorite. Well, that last part may be changing. On Thursday, Young made it clear that she doesn't support same-sex marriage or adding gay people to San Antonio's nondiscrimination code. In doing so, Young gave the WNBA, its gay fans and gay players, its latest headache.
Young broke two months of Twitter silence to tweet: "Should San Antonio be a city that allows same sex marriage?? I vote NO." Minutes later, she posted the picture (above) and added, "My vote is still No... San Antonio should not allows [sic] Same sex marriages." (The sign she is holding in the picture actually refers to the ordinance ordinance, Hoopfeed, a women's basketball blog, explains.)
The curious thing is that San Antonio, the city where Young plays for the Silver Stars, isn't considering same-sex marriage at all. Instead, city officials are simply voting on a measure that would add "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance. That measure will come to a vote on September 5. If passed, it will, for one, prevent employers from firing people because of their sexual orientation. Not really controversial stuff, is it?
It is for Young. Whether she knows it or not, she is essentially urging continued institutional bias against homosexuals.
As her tweet shows, Young is not terribly informed about this issue at hand. Nevertheless, she is a prominent enough of an athlete for her opposition to matter — imagine, for example, someone like Dirk Nowitzki doing the same. Moreover, her anti-gay stance cuts especially deep in the WNBA, which has many gay players and has actively courted gay fans.
The WNBA is actually light years ahead of any other professional American sports league when it comes to progress for gay players and gay fans. While the NFL and NHL are busy talking about the anticipation of a single openly-gay player, the WNBA's 2012 first draft pick, Brittney Griner, came out of the closet, was signed by Nike and was in a massive spread in ESPN magazine when she was drafted. "I am a strong, black lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better," Griner said. Griner and Young actually went to the same college.
Nor is Griner Young's only gay colleague. Seimone Augustus, the WNBA's version of Carmelo Anthony, is planning to marry her wife now that Minnesota has passed a same-sex marriage bill (above, right). Earlier this summer, Sharnee Zoll-Norman, a guard for the Chicago Sky, came out. Retired legends like Sheryl Swoopes and Chamique Holdsclaw have also both come out.
There are also players like former MVP Lauren Jackson (right) who have responded critically to Young's tweets. "Seriously? OMG," Jackson tweeted in message to Young. "Everyone deserves the right to love, to be accepted and to be treated equally. WORKING TOWARD A BETTER WORLD FOR ALL," she added.
Young is not only playing against gay players, she's also playing in front of a gay audience. Since 2001, the WNBA has been trying to attract and embrace a gay fan base. And it's worked. Holdsclaw, a former All-Star in the league, told The New York Times in 2012 that this acknowledgment of its gay fan base sets the WNBA apart from male professional leagues:
A lot of gay people love sports and want to support the W.N.B.A. You have players, some star players now, who openly identify as being gay. Early on, the league would not market them because of that. That has changed. You have to be honest with your product and with the athletes that you’re dealing with. And get support from wherever you can.
In short, the WNBA is probably not the best place for anti-gay views like Young's. Maybe she can join a basketball team in Russia.