Former WNBA star Candice Wiggins offers harsh critique of league and its players

We’re now a more than a week out from the controversial comments made by former WNBA player Candice Wiggins about the league, and we’ve learned a number of things about the issues Wiggins asserted are pervasive within the league.

Specifically, Wiggins told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the league’s culture was “very, very harmful”, that she was bullied, and that she ascribed that bullying to being straight in a league she characterized as “98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women.”

So what have we learned in the time since those explosive comments were first aired?

If others share her experience, they are keeping it to themselves. Not a single WNBA player or coach, current or former, has gone public to corroborate Wiggins’ larger take on the league as somehow hostile to heterosexual women. Instead, players and coaches alike took to Twitter, to newspapers, to their own blogs, to TV in the case of Breanna Stewart, all to reinforce that the WNBA Wiggins described, while perfectly aligned with the most hostile stereotypes, simply didn’t exist for them. 

Separating personal experience from broader conclusions is a must. No one can tell Candice Wiggins she didn’t have the WNBA career she had. If she says she was bullied, it is not incumbent upon anyone to tell her otherwise, and players and coaches who have addressed her comments have been uniformly respectful of that line. But it is equally problematic that Wiggins attempted to equate her experience with the totality of the league. Leaving aside the issue that a player’s sexuality simply doesn’t matter, but will now be a bigger part of the conversation about the league (and critics can point to Wiggins forever to justify their own hateful response to the diverse group of players in the WNBA), there’s the points Wiggins tried to make about fan support -- saying outright, “Nobody cares about the WNBA.” A rising tide of ticket sales and television ratings—up 4.6 percent and 11 percent, respectively -- argues far more persuasively about the direction of the league than Wiggins’ singular experience.

The league needs to improve its own PR efficiency. The Wiggins story posted Monday. It took until Thursday for league president Lisa Borders to issue a statement, and even then the general nature of it failed to alter the trajectory of the story. This left writers who don’t typically cover the league to blindly stab at the issues raised by Wiggins, those who do cover the league without any kind of official response to something that was immediately shot down by a preponderance of sources, and players and coaches alike wondering why the league failed to defend itself over a set of facts largely favorable to it.

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