Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, August 19, 2005

When WNBA commissioner Donna Orender retrieves her 'To Do' pile from the weekend, the Los Angeles Times' Sunday edition will go off like the M40 firecracker my brother tossed in the neighborhood saltbox on Independence Day.

The city tucks away stores of street salt in curbside wooden boxes. The WNBA tucks away scores of same sex partners in glass boxes. Both boxes are marked, 'Do Not Open'. On either, the effect of a high impact detonation device like an M40 is predictable. The sides blow off and come Monday, driving is a bit slippery.

The first firecracker of the post-Henry Bibby, neo-Jelly Bean Bryant era comes courtesy of Los Angeles Times freelance writers Sandra Kobrin and Jason Levin. Read the entire feature here.

'In June 2003, a few weeks into LA's drive for its third WNBA title, Sparks forward Latasha Byears was accused of sexual assault following a party at her Marina del Rey condo. Less than a month later, a similar allegation was made against Kobe Bryant'.

Now Latasha Byears is suing the Sparks for wrongful termination. Last month, authorities officially closed their two-year investigation and cited 'insufficient evidence' to pursue a case against her. Byears was never arrested or charged, but she hasn't worked a day in the WNBA since. She says that the same team that stood thick and thin by Kobe Bryant 'left me for dead'.

Byears alleges the Sparks discriminated against her on the basis of her sexual orientation. She talks about life as a lesbian in the WNBA. Byears says when she came into the league she was told by Kristal Shipp, then the team communications director of the Los Angeles Sparks, "not to speak to any gay and lesbian magazines and to use discretion regarding the clubs I like to go to." Shipp declined comment on any specific conversations with Byears but acknowledged that all players receive media training.

Kobrin and Levin follow Tot's story with the Lavender interview . Michele Van Gorp, discussing her playing days with the New York Liberty, said that a Liberty coach went so far as to schedule lunch with her to discuss her sexual orientation. "It was actually a big issue, and a big part of why, the game of basketball aside, I didn't like being in New York," Van Gorp said. "Within the organization, it seemed very taboo."

RebKell's board was on topic before the news article posted. "Sue Wicks has said publicly and privately that it is WNBA 'policy' to keep the sexual orientation of its gay players under wraps. Wicks coming out to the press was, in part, her way of challenging that policy." Also, "It was the league that suggested that (Liberty general manager Carol Blazejowski) edit her bio" to eliminate references to a same sex partner and two children.

Sample reaction to the Times story? Reb's board. "Sickening stuff. And a long overdue view into the twisted heart of the WNBA's thoughts on this issue." ESPN's board. "The article whitewashed the situation. Not that it was untrue (but) a whole lot was left out" and "Byears is innocent. She has suffered much."

For the history of the Byears story, see here.