In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune that conflates institutional frustrations with personal slights, Candice Wiggins confessed, “It wasn’t like my dreams came true in the WNBA. It was quite the opposite.” The problem, she says, was that she isn’t gay.
The No. 3 overall draft pick out of Stanford in 2008 played for four different teams over her eight-year career before retiring abruptly last March instead of accepting a contract extension with the New York Liberty. Now, seemingly pre-promoting an autobiography-in-progress based on her time in the WNBA, Wiggins is blaming her disappointing experience in the league on her heterosexuality. From the Union-Tribune:
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins said. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply.
“There was a lot of jealousy and competition, and we’re all fighting for crumbs,” Wiggins said. “The way I looked, the way I played – those things contributed to the tension.
“People were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time. I had never been called the B-word so many times in my life than I was in my rookie season. I’d never been thrown to the ground so much. The message was: ‘We want you to know we don’t like you.’”
It’s true that the WNBA has been at the forefront of LGBT acceptance, driven largely by the high-profile coming out of a number of stars. But as the Union-Tribune points out, there’s no data to back up Wiggins’s claim about the league’s dramatically outsized proportion of homosexual athletes (Even Dennis Rodman thinks “only” 50 percent of WNBA players are likely homosexual.)
Wiggins doesn’t explicitly say anything derogatory about women in the league who are lesbians—and, in fact, she once had glowing words for a a WNBA Pride Night—but beyond the sheer oddness of this estimation, she seems to have some strange ideas about womanhood.
She makes the point that players in the WNBA feel pressured to “play like a man,” but then distances herself from the rest of the league by saying, “I was proud to a be a woman, and it didn’t fit well in that culture.” Elsewhere, she seems to imply that her teammates were jealous of the attention her more traditional femininity garnered.
In a piece published in The Players’ Tribune around the time of her retirement, Wiggins alludes to being relieved to step away from the league, but doesn’t mention the issues of sexuality or even the bullying. She does, however, talk about the strain of playing year-round for financial reasons and the eight surgeries she’s undergone. The physical and emotional toll of playing abroad to support a career in the WNBA has a little more resonance as a source of disillusionment, and now Wiggins isn’t pulling any punches on that topic, either.
“Nobody cares about the WNBA,” she told the Union-Tribune. “Viewership is minimal. Ticket sales are very low. They give away tickets and people don’t come to the game.”