The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
The second half of the WNBA regular season began with a big week of play that saw several franchise and league records get broken. Four of those records have one thing in common: openly queer women.
Let's begin our look back by visiting the home of the 2018 All-Star Game (Did you vote yet?)
The Minnesota Lynx opened the week with an upset loss to Candice Dupree and the Indiana Fever (July 3), but the defending champs had little time to mope. The Lynx hosted their arch-rival Los Angeles Sparks two days later in what became a game for the record books.
Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson -- an openly queer woman of color who is expecting a child with her wife -- broke the first record of the game for the Lynx midway through the fourth quarter. She became the WNBA's all-time leading rebounder with her 12th rebound of the night against LA, giving her 3,318 total career rebounds.
The tides seemed to turn mere seconds later, when Lynx head coach/general manager Cheryl Reeve was ejected from the game after receiving a double-technical foul. But the Target Center faithful helped the Lynx hold on for an 83-72 win, their first against the Sparks this season.
With the victory, Reeve is now the winningest female head coach in WNBA history and seventh-winningest overall. She sits at 206 wins, passing the late Anne Donovan (205). The two worked together on the now-defunct Charlotte Sting's coaching staff in the early 2000s, so the milestone was bittersweet for Reeve.
I'm so thankful to Anne for giving me the opportunity to coach in the WNBA. #mentor— Cheryl Reeve (@LynxCoachReeve) July 6, 2018
Brunson and teammate Seimone Augustus aren't the only openly queer members of the Lynx. Reeve is married to Lynx VP of Business Operations Carley Knox, and the two have a(n adorable) three-year-old son together.
Another out staff member in the WNBA is former player Penny Taylor, now Director of Player Development and Performance with the Phoenix Mercury. Taylor's wife, legendary veteran Diana Taurasi, made history of her own on Thursday night.
Taurasi shot a three-pointer to put the Mercury up by 10 (53-43) over the Connecticut Sun. The three officially gave her the record for most field goals made in league history with 2,631 (and counting). It was only last season that Taurasi also broke the league's all-time scoring record; she now has more than 8,200 points and counting.
Taurasi is just part of a powerful Mercury squad that's been near the top of the standings all season as they fight for a title. Fellow out teammate Brittney Griner has also continued her greatness for Phoenix this year. As has DeWanna Bonner, who is back on the court after giving birth to twins last year. She is married to Indiana star Candice Dupree.
The Mercury have been battling for a top spot in the league before the All-Star Game with the Seattle Storm. The Storm are currently in first place after their win over the Washington Mystics on Sunday (July 8), in big part thanks to Sue Bird. The veteran guard –- who came out publicly via ESPN last year -– became the Storm's all-time leading scorer with 21 points in the win. Bird surpassed former teammate Lauren Jackson's record (6,007) and now sits at 6,016 (and counting).
Fellow out teammate Natasha Howard also surpassed the 1,000 point mark in her career in Seattle's win.
And despite her team's loss to the top-ranked Storm, Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics won the Eastern Conference player of the week award on July 9. No big deal for the out forward/guard, who scored a conference-leading 20.1 points per game last week. At last check, Delle Donne is second among fan votes for this month's WNBA All-Star Game.
The history the aforementioned women made this week is huge -- as is the level of gameplay seen from other out players (and the entire league, really). The level of inclusiveness the WNBA has shown in recent years is also meaningful to me as a queer woman of color. It warms my heart to see the teams and the league really go the extra mile to support the LGBTQ community, both on and off the court.
I love writing about and supporting a league that's so accepting to players and staffers who want to live their truths. And I especially love that the communities outside of the league are becoming more accepting as well. Someone coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community is huge –- believe me, I've done it many times. What's even bigger, however, is that someone's coming out isn't seen as such a big deal anymore. These record-breaking queer women won't be the last to hold their titles.
We queer people are siblings, partners, spouses, parents, workers, you name it -– just like everyone else. The same goes for the members of the WNBA. It gives me hope to see the increased levels of acceptance, celebration, and pride from the league. And I can imagine young girls feeling the same. The future is bright.
Filed under: basketball; wnba all-star game; minnesota lynx; los angeles sparks; rebekkah brunson; cheryl reeve; anne donovan; seimone augustus; penny taylor; diana taurasi; carley knox; phoenix mercury; dewanna bonner; candice dupree; brittney griner; seattle storm; sue bird; natasha howard; elena delle donne; washington mystics; wnba
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