Candice Wiggins had a stellar WNBA career, playing in the league from 2008 through 2015, being named the Sixth Woman of the Year in her rookie season and helping the Minnesota Lynx win the championship in 2011. Too bad the star guard's experience in the league was mired by what she called a "toxic" culture.
In speaking with the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this week, Wiggins called the WNBA's atmosphere "very, very harmful" and added that she was bullied throughout her eight years in the league for being a star player and also because she was straight, estimating that "98 percent" of the players in the WNBA are gay.
Wiggins went as far as to state that the noxious culture of the WNBA paved the way for her to cut her career in the league short.
"I wanted to play two more seasons of WNBA, but the experience didn't lend itself to my mental state," Wiggins told the newspaper. "It was a depressing state in the WNBA. It's not watched. Our value is diminished. It can be quite hard. I didn't like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me. My spirit was being broken."
And Wiggins was just warming up with her stinging criticism about the league.
"Me being heterosexual and straight and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge," Wiggins continued telling the Union-Tribune. "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."
Wiggins added, "People were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time," and that she "had never been called the B-word so many times in my life than I was in my rookie season," fresh from being a heralded four-time All-American out of Stanford and subsequent third-overall draft pick.
Good lord. That's far from a ringing endorsement for the league.
WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike said Wiggins's allegations should be "taken seriously."
"Whether one agrees or disagrees with the comments made recently by a former player, or whether one has seen or experienced anything like what she has described," Ogwumike said in a statement, as reported by ESPN, "anything that impacts an inclusive culture should be taken seriously."
To Wiggins's estimate that 98 percent of the WNBA players are gay, Chicago Sky center Imani Boyette said the retired guard's numbers are "not only false, but it's unfair."
"Do you understand what you've done? You've reinforced unfair stereotypes," Boyette wrote on her website in an open letter to Wiggins. "A person's orientation is their own and their business. Now, because of your article, it is no longer out of bounds to ask WNBA players about their sexuality. Do they ask any male stars in the NBA about their sexuality? Is it even a conversation?"
Wiggins did make sure to tell the Union-Tribune that she's "not trying to crush anyone's dreams" of balling in the WNBA, but that it was important that she was "honest" in her reflections.
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