Recently retired WNBA star Candice Wiggins insists “98 percent” of the women in the league are gay and she was “targeted” throughout her eight-year career for being a heterosexual player.
Wiggins abruptly announced her retirement at 29 last March and in a far-ranging interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune recently pronounced her entire league experience as “toxic.”
The No. 3 pick in the 2008 draft, Wiggins reflected in the interview that the culture in the league was “very, very harmful,” and she never “liked the culture inside” the league’s inner circles.
Ideally, Wiggins claimed she wanted to play two more seasons, but simply came to feel the situation didn’t “lend itself to my mental state.”
She further claimed she felt targeted from the day the Minnesota Lynx made her one of the top picks in the 2008 draft, largely because she was seen as different from most other players.
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” she added. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place.”
Presumably as payback for her independence, Wiggins alleged “people were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time,” she added. “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.'”
Wiggins is now writing a book about her WNBA experiences, which she claims include recollections about women being encouraged to act like the men of the NBA.
“There was a lot of jealousy and competition, and we’re all fighting for crumbs,” she said. “The way I looked, the way I played – those things contributed to the tension. It comes to a point where you get compared so much to the men, you come to mirror the men.”
In all, Wiggins played eight WNBA seasons, averaging 8.6 points in stints with Tulsa, Los Angeles, New York, and Minnesota.
“There were horrible things happening to me every day, and that connection to the outside world kept me going,” she said.
Through it all, Wiggins insists she feels no great animosity for anyone whose path crossed hers during her time in the league.
“I want you to understand this: There are no enemies in my life,” she said. “Everyone is forgiven. At the end of the day, it made me stronger. If I had not had this experience, I wouldn’t be as tough as I am.”
Wiggins has now set her sights on a pro volleyball career, currently training with some of the sport’s best-known players and trainers. She readily embraces the sport’s camaraderie and its “celebration of women and the female body as feminine, but strong and athletic.”
Late Tuesday, Players’ union president Nneka Ogwumike, reigning league MVP and a Stanford grad like Wiggins, released a statement to VICE Sports where she opined, “Our union is only as strong as our loyalty to and support for one another. What is key to that loyalty and support is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As a union, we should and we will continue to celebrate the diversity that makes us special and lead by example. We must respect the rights of those we don’t agree with when they speak their mind. 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, anything that impacts an inclusive culture should be taken seriously.”
Meanwhile, WNBA league officials have declined to publicly comment.
[Featured Image by Michael Hickey/Getty Images]