Coming-out party | Will gay athletes follow Swoopes’s lead?

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Sheryl SwoopesHouston | Sheryl Swoopes of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Houston Comets has come out with pride as a gay woman. Her decision has given greater attention to the image consciousness and complicated gender politics in women’s sports, including women’s soccer.

“Do we market to [lesbians] or don’t we?” asks former Atlanta city council president Cathy Woolard, the first openly gay elected official in Georgia and a fan of women’s basketball. “If we don’t market to them, does it make them mad? It’s a convoluted, crazy thing.”

Dave Zirin writes in The Nation of the “muted response” to Swoopes’s disclosure, which Zirin says “flows from the sexist treatment of women’s athletics on sports pages.” He sees hope in Swoopes’s decision that gay, female African American athletes might find permission to love freely. “We should stop looking for the gay Jackie Robinson,” Zirin writes. “We have found her.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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