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Scary Lesbian Kisses Threaten WNBA Viability

posted by Pat Griffin's LGBT Sport Blog
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 12:41pm EDT

A weekly commentary on sports news, sports competition, media, research and people related to addressing homophobia, heterosexism, sexism and racism in sport.

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There will be no kiss cams at Washington Mystics games
. What is a kiss cam you ask? It is a ubiquitous practice at NBA games where the TV camera pans the crowd, picks a couple (heterosexual, of course) and projects their image on the Jumbotron. The crowd calls for them to smooch. When they do, everyone cheers. Harmless fun, right?

That is unless the couple consists of two women. Defending the decision to eliminate the Kiss Cam Washington Mystics owner Sheila Johnson cited the “inappropriateness” of women kissing women and the potential for alienating other fans who are largely dads and daughters.

OK, I understand that the WNBA is on somewhat shaky financial ground, especially in this economic climate. I get that WBNA owners and players want to keep fans in the seats. I understand that these factors make them shy away from associating with anything they see as controversial or potentially a threat to the viability of the league.

What I don’t get is the on-going outrageous homophobia and outright disrespect for lesbian fans. What makes me sad is the deep seated internalized homophobia of lesbian fans and players who collude with these heterosexist practices: “We will only be tolerated if we remain invisible, well-behaved, inoffensive, appropriate (and heterosexual people get to decide if we pass this test).”

Hello! Everyone already knows that lesbians play in the WNBA. Everyone already knows that lesbians are a major part of the WNBA fan base. The WNBA needs lesbian players, fans and coaches. If we had a lesbian walk out or boy (girl) cott, the WNBA would really be feeling the hurt. Yet, lesbians in the stands and on the court are expected to be “appropriate” which, of course means shut up, sit down and make yourself as invisible as possible. When will this charade end? Everyone is afraid of offending anyone who is not a lesbian, but apparently lesbians are supposed to take slap in the face after slap in the face and turn the other cheek for more. Enough.

If I had known how powerful a lesbian kiss is, I would have been using it to address some issues I’d like to see changed. Violence against women? Let’s harness the power of lesbian lip locks to scare those perpetrators into submission. A screwed up health care system? Give me some lesbians sucking face, we’ll see if that doesn’t get those guys in congress to act.

I mean, of course, I discovered the power of participating in a lesbian kiss a long time ago, but I had no idea of its potential for affecting hundreds of people at a time by virtue of merely witnessing a good ole dykacious lip smack. If we can clear a basketball arena with just one kiss projected on the Jumbotron, just think what else we could accomplish. Smack! I bet I could always find a parking place. Smack! I could make the Red Sox win. Smoocharoo! I get a place at the front of the line at the bank. Pucker up, baby! I can silence those rude cell phone users in public places – all by deploying the power of my lovely, luscious, lavender, lesbian lips.

I call on all my Sapphic sisters! Rise up! Lick those weapons of mass affection on your face. Pucker up and change the world. Apparently, we’ve been given greater gifts than we ever imagined. Let’s canoodle the world into equality and justice.

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There are 10 comments on this post. Join the discussion!

mhueter says:

Interesting post, Pat. I don't think the WNBA is intentionally singling anyone out though. I'm pretty sure they know what their audience demographic is, and I've seen them go completely out of their way for their loyal fans, no matter who they are. The whole idea of the lip smack at timeouts (heterosexual or homosexual) is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with the game - no matter what sport - and is a stupid way to embarrass people. So eliminating it altogether would be an appropriate alternative. The purpose of timeouts should be to make fans feel comfortable and engage them in something fun that relates to the game. It shouldn't make anyone feel uncomfortable, and either a heterosexual kiss or a homosexual kiss can do just that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 3:20pm EDT

GinaLA says:

OK, my comments will probably make some angry, but here goes. I'll preface this by saying I that I don't care what a person's sexual preference is. It is their business. That said this issue is the "Elephant in the Room" for the WNBA. As we all know, Lesbians have been the most loyal fan base for the WNBA from early on.

As a profit making business the WNBA has not "worked" from the beginning and it still isn't. As much as I think the WNBA appreciates it's Lesbian supporters, since it has never been profitable things need to change. The NBA has been heavily subsidizing the WNBA for years and it can't go on forever.

The WNBA is looking for a broader customer base. They won't stay in business it they don't find more fans to buy tickets. Since the total Lesbian fan prospect base is very small compared to other potential targets they have to make some tough decisions.

It is safe to say that while the original poster is entitled to her view on the "kiss cam" issue, many other fans and POTENTIAL fans are not comfortable with it. It doesn't mean they are homophobes. There is no business upside for the WNBA to focusing on it in this environment. If a Dad and / or Mom brings a daughter or an Aunt (me) brings a niece to a game we really don't feel like having to address this type of activity at a public event that we have paid admission to attend.

I have to disagree with the prior comment as I do think the WNBA is singling out Lesbians on this issue. I live in LA and the last time I went to a Dodger game they had the fan/kiss cam going and it was very popular with the fans. It works in allot pro sports, that's why they do it. If you run a business you shouldn't create a situation that makes your customers uncomfortable. I know Lesbians don't want to hear this, but I believe it is true.

Finally, I don't know how many Lesbians there are in the WNBA, but I'm sure they would Come Out if it would work for them. No one is stopping them but themselves as Swopes (sp?) proved.

There are allot of things that I believe all of us have the right to do. That doesn't mean that in all cases it is appropriate to do them in public.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 4:55pm EDT

anngaff says:

What a great example the WNBA would be setting in this case to practice tolerance and non-discrimination. As for the young girls at the game, they should learn tolerance and acceptance soon, as they may one day have homosexual teammates.

If you want to look at it strictly from a business perspective, homosexuals are documented as having more disposable income than heterosexuals and therefore may be more likely to fork over dough for season tickets, etc. See report on how much money the state of CA's economy missed out on when Prop 8 passed and gay marriage was no longer allowed within its borders.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 7:22pm EDT

GinaLA says:

I'm confident that most parents of young girls or boys would prefer a different forum to address this issue versus seeing it for the first time on an Arena Jumbotron. There are a lot of ways to teach tolerance and acceptance and in my opinion it isn't the place of either the WNBA or their Lesbian fans to take the initiative. It's pretty clear that the WNBA understands this. Based on the original post it looks like some in the Lesbian fan base have a different perspective.

I agree with your position on the high disposable incomes in the gay community. This is primarily due to the fact that the majority of these households do not have the personal or financial responsibility of raising children. My original point was that the WNBA has already captured the Lesbian fan base and even with it's high disposable income levels it hasn't proven to be enough to support the business. This is obviously why the WNBA needs to add new fans.

I'm particularly bothered by the apparent willingness of some WNBA Lesbian fans, who by and large are not responsible for raising children themselves, to expose other peoples' children to a lifestyle that is about as far from mainstream as it can be. Seems to me to be very dismissive and disrespectful of the parents of those children.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 9:16pm EDT

robm says:

I knew when first I saw it this post would stir the embers. That fact, however, doesn't make me a sage: the post forces us to confront a thorny issue; one I find difficult to parse as well.

I dislike homophobia--strongly. Nor do I care for prudery, whatever the ideology that animates it. On the other hand, I agree somewhat with Megan--perhaps the "kiss cam" was a silly idea to begin with.

I also understand the business side and why the WNBA might think getting rid of the cam altogether makes good business sense. The WNBA is sadly mistaken, however, if it thinks this, or anything to do with lesbianism, is the primary obstacle to expanding its fan base.

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 1:10pm EDT

GinaLA says:

@robm - Some good points. I don't think that the WNBA believes that lesbianism, as it CURRENTLY manifests itself in the WNBA player population and fan base is necessarily an obstacle to growth. They may feel this way, but it hasn't been my impression.

I do think that the WNBA keenly realizes that a more aggressive strategy that overtly promotes or is seen to endorse lesbianism in either the player body or fan base has the potential to seriously polarize non-lesbian fans and more importantly POTENTIAL future fans. This could seriously limit future growth potential and could put the league out of business if David Stern ever tires of writing checks. I'm sorry if this tweaks lesbian fans, but I strongly believe this is the case. I don't see this perspective as homophobia, but rather a realistic view of society, the market and the WNBA as a business.

All of this said, the biggest problem the WNBA has is the product. I'm a big NBA fan and it is difficult to get excited about the WNBA product (unless you have a niece like me) if you compare it to the NBA. I see ESPN is has a new commercial now with Candace Parker. Maybe that will help. I personally think they need to somehow target a market other than hard core NBA fans as I don't think they are ever going to get them "on board".

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 4:13pm EDT

JenniferDoyle says:

Thank you for this post!

It is astonishing how in the sports world homophobia and sexism are completely supported - actively, and passively. What would happen if the WNBA embraced its lesbian players and fans? What would happen if the WPS did the same?

They'd get even more women out to watch the games. It's ludicrous that these leagues are so desperate for a few straight, white, middle class $$ that they sell out the gay AND straight (but feminist, anti-homophobic) fans who are ALREADY on board.


The reader who thinks lesbians don't raise children apparently doesn't get out much. And, here's one to get your heart-rate going: there are those of us who think that in fact, just as kids are "raised" to be straight, some of us would like to bring out kids up "gay" - meaning, we want to bring our kids up in a way that encourages them to be who they are, who they want to be - by celebrating and cherishing effeminate boys, butch/tomboy girls, and every kid who doesn't see themselves in the images of the "straight" world.

Maybe the WNBA doesn't feel like a good "product" to some people because there is still something about the WNBA and its sisters (like the WPS) that is more than a "product" - because it's very existence raises big political questions about gender and sexual equity.

People who are too full of hate to support lesbian and gay fans and players should stay at home and think about what exactly it is about the spectacle of women loving each other that is going to bring their world to an end.

And then turn to broadcasts of men's basketball, football, and baseball games - and ask themselves how come it's OK to have kiss-cams there, and broadcasts of men patting each other on the butt, even as gay male players are silenced, erased from the record - bullied off the field and worse as kids. What kind of things do those sexist and homophobic "products" teach your kids?

J. Doyle - From A Left Wing (http://fromaleftwing.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 2:00pm EDT

GinaLA says:

Jennifer,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. It's all good that you're proud of the lesbian lifestyle, but that isn't what this blog is about. We're talking about is if the lesbian thing works in the WNBA business model. As I previously stated, it clearly doesn't. If it did then we wouldn't be talking about how the WNBA has not locked down on a legitimate, profit producing business model in the 13 years that it's been around.

From my perspective if the WNBA actively embraced and marketed lesbianism as a part of their business plan it would go out of business quicker than you could blink.

Based upon your address it seems you're a bit left of center, so let me share something with you about making money in a capitalistic society. DEMAND must exist. In the event it doesn't then someone with money has to believe enough in the product's future profit potential to continue to invest in the business model until such time it can return a profit and provide an ROI to the investors. It isn't social work. That said, it seems Stern is treating it like something other than a profit producing business. Based upon this a person has to assume that the NBA thinks that eventually whatever market exists or can be developed for the WNBA will be profitable. Fortunately they have the money to take that bet. I doubt it will go on forever.

As much as you would like to cast this as Hate, it has nothing to do with it. The real question is "will America allow you and your contingent to force your Will upon the general public via the WNBA"? Seems to me the market has spoken. It isn't going to happen. It's important you don't misunderstand. Whatever people want to do in the privacy of their own homes is fine by me. Just don't presume that you can push your agenda on others in a forum like the WNBA in the name of "fairness".


I continue to be amazed at responses like yours. If the lesbian contingent is so proud of their lifestyle why don't all lesbian WNBA players "Come Out" and proclaim it to the public? Don't you think that if the WNBA thought they could make money from mass marketing to lesbians they would already have been doing it? I think you need to tune in to reality.

Please spare me on the Lesbian parenting thing. Frankly you should check your statements about how you folks "would like to bring our kids up gay". I'm almost speechless, other than to say that this type of perspective is exactly why the WNBA doesn't "Officially" promote lesbianism.

I don't think you understand the general population. They don't CARE if you and your girlfriends have relationships with each other. It isn't all about you. This fact doesn't give you the right to push your lifestyle on others who just want to watch basketball.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 4:25pm EDT

theguru says:

That kisstron thing is rediculous, lesbian or no lesbian. "Lesbians are expected to sit down, shutup and act appropriate" as stated in the first post.
DOESN'T EVERYBODY!!! have to know how to act in public.
They say the WBNA has a very high fan base. That fine but if they are to survive, they have to reach out to families as well or any other group.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 4:01pm EDT

Conquistador0 says:

You had me going until that ignorant use of the word Homophobia.

Being opposed to people stealing, murdering, lying, cheating isn't bad....and being opposed to propogating something immoral like homosexuality isn't retarded or mean-spirited. Its called preference and standing for what you believe in.

now I do feel that getting rid of the Kiss Cam does show a measure of weakness in standing for this, but lets not confuse it with homophobia, where just being a homosexual causes people to wish to tar and feather you (or whatever)....that is a completely different thing of course.

Because at the end of the day, you are allowed to be right...or as wrong as you wish to be. But that doesn't mean I have to change my beliefs just because you want to have a lifestyle that promotes self-centeredness and doom to posterity.

Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 3:08am EDT

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