WNBA reaching out to LGBT community; Lynx already have

The move marks the first time a pro league has recruited LGBT fans, but it is something the Lynx have been doing for a while.

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WNBA President Laurel Richie, shown with Lynx owner Glen Taylor during Sunday's championship ring ceremony, leads league that on Wednesday announced a marketing strategy to attract the LGBT community. “The WNBA welcomes all fans, athletes and partners to our game,” Richie said in a news release.

Photo: Stacy Bengs, AP

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For the Lynx, it will be business as usual.

On Wednesday the WNBA announced a campaign to market specifically to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It is a groundbreaking move, making the WNBA the first professional league to recruit LGBT fans to its games.

But this is something the Lynx have been doing for a while, according to Carley Knox, director of business operations for the team.

“This is exactly what we do every year,” Knox said. “Almost all the teams have been doing local events. This is the first time the league has made it a big initiative as far as a marketing platform.”

Acknowledging that an appreciable portion of its fan base is made up of members of the LGBT community, the league is now talking publicly about how to market the league to those fans.

The initiative known as “WNBA Pride” included the launch Wednesday of a new website, WNBA.com/pride. And it calls for having teams take part in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups and advertising with lesbian media. The league will have pride games during June in which players will wear commemorative warmup shirts. One of the games, between Tulsa and Chicago on June 22, will be televised nationally.

The league also will be represented at the Provincetown (Mass.) Memorial Day Weekend, a celebration for women, and the Women of Color Weekend, also held in Provincetown May 29-June 1.

“I think at the core of what the WNBA is as a league is being a welcoming environment to all aspects of our fan base,” Knox said.

Knox said the Lynx have been working with LGBT advocacy groups for years and have hosted their own pride games. Lynx star Seimone Augustus, one of a few WNBA players who have come out as lesbian, was a co-grand marshal, along with her fiancée LaTaya Varner, at the 2012 GLBT Pride Parade in downtown Minneapolis. The team also has a booth at the Gay Pride Festival, where it hands out information and sells merchandise.

It’s just that now such efforts will have a league-wide mandate.

“The WNBA welcomes all fans, athletes and partners to our game,” said WNBA president Laurel Richie in the league release. “These beliefs unite the 12 teams of the WNBA and we are very excited to introduce the WNBA Pride platform, which celebrates acceptance and inclusion. ... For us, it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately. This is one of those moments in the [WNBA] where everybody comes together.’’

A study commissioned by the WNBA in 2012 found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league’s game on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.

As part of the plan, the league will work with a number of leading LGBT community-based organizations, including GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamtion) and Athlete Ally to raise awareness of inclusion through grass roots events and public-service campaigns.

“Sports are a microcosm of society,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And the WNBA is so much more than basketball. I applaud and stand with the WNBA and CoverGirl [a co-sponsor of the initiative] in this very important platform promoting acceptance and inclusion.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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