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In a league where “don’t ask/don’t tell” seems to be the unwritten rule, there are still few out lesbian players (in 2002, the Liberty’s Wicks was one of the first WNBA players to come out).Since then, All-Star Sheryl Swoopes, a four-time champion with the Houston Comets, came out in a big way: on the cover of .This year’s fans talk about a return to the playoffs, and wear their Janelle Mc Carville and Shameka Christon jerseys, the old-school fans still sporting Theresa Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks-wear.There’s a strong tradition of winning with the Liberty, and after retooling a veteran franchise with young talent the last few seasons, the fans want a return to the finals.During Pride Week, the Liberty Torch Patrol sports rainbow colors and the Garden flashes “Happy Pride” announcements on its Garden Vision screen.Attorney Roz Quarto, former president of the Gay Games, has held Liberty season tickets since game one.“There are as many straight women in the league as there are gay.What really irritates me is when people talk about football, baseball and the NBA, you don’t hear all of this talk about gay guys playing …Sexuality and gender don’t change anyone’s performance on the court.” Still, this is women’s sports, and only a few out gay WNBA players in 11 years of existence raises some questions. Or is Swoopes making the point that there are no lesbians or straights on the court—because they’re all straight-up athletes?
This year, they are talking about the Liberty’s first-round draft picks: Rutgers star Essence Carson, and North Carolina’s Erlana Larkins.Half of the city evaporates to cooler vacation spots in the summer, in the heart of the WNBA season.(And of course, every four years, the league takes a month-long break in August as the world’s best players head for the Olympic games.) The Liberty constantly shifts and refines its marketing efforts to keep the fannies in the seats.I’m not sure we would want to tinker with that environment. One is what we call the ‘women’s sports enthusiast,’ and that is a woman, thirty-plus, who has an interest in sports either as a fan or someone who participates; we have families, and that’s moms and dads or moms and moms or dads and dads with kids between the ages of 5 and 13; we have the ‘Male Hoopster,’ a guy who just loves to watch basketball and loves the purity of our sport.” The team’s outreach efforts include queer organizations, community groups, schools, sports leagues and women’s groups.The Liberty has worked with and recognized the New York LGBTQ Center and PFLAG, donated gear for fundraisers, and sponsors an annual Human Rights Campaign event.