Almost two years after Sheryl Swoopes came out, no other active WNBA players have followed her lead and come out. This season, Swoopes has missed several Houston Comets games because of a bulging disc, and she was forced to miss the All-Star Game on July 15 for the first time since 2001.
We recently talked to Swoopes from the bench about her plans to open a sports bar; the lack of women coaches in the WNBA; the sacrifices her partner, Alisa Scott, has had to make since Swoopes came out; and starring in NBA Street Homecourt, the first-ever video game to feature WNBA players.
AfterEllen.com: You have already accomplished some amazing things in basketball. What are some of the goals you have left with the Comets?
Sheryl Swoopes: With a lot of things changing this season — new owners, new coach — handling that in itself is a challenge. I would love to win another championship. If it happens this season that would be great, especially because this could possibly be my last year.
AE: How is your partner, Alisa Scott, doing? I understand she has gotten out of coaching.
SS: She is actually doing massage therapy. Coaching is her passion and what she wants to do and where she wants to be.
There is definitely a need for good female coaches. In the WNBA and in college, I see teams leaning towards former NBA players — and men in general — as coaches, and that is a slap in the face, because there are so many quality, qualified females out there that should be given the opportunity to coach.
It’s not that she didn’t want to coach anymore, it was that she had to do something different. The biggest problem was us being together and her being a coach, and I think that’s unfortunate.
Because of that, she has had to change her career. It’s a battle that we are never going to win. I don’t think she will be given the opportunity [to coach] until I’m retired, period. And that frustrates me, because I don’t think that’s right.
You have husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends working together in sports and corporate America, and whether that is right or wrong, they don’t lose jobs because of it.
AE: When you came out to ESPN, you had gay sports reporter L.Z. Granderson write your story. When John Amaechi came out, he wrote a book, Man in the Middle, to go along with his announcement. You wrote the children’s book Hoops With Swoopes a few years ago, but is an autobiography something you have thought about doing?
SS: Absolutely, but I want to do it on my time, not on everybody else’s. I didn’t do it when I first came out because it would have been a rush decision and more about what other people wanted me to write. I don’t want the book to just focus on me coming out and that part of my life, because there are so many other aspects to who I am.
As a strong, black, female athlete, and as a single parent, there are so many different parts of my life that could really influence someone else’s life.
AE: Something I keep hearing is: "Sure, Sheryl came out, and it was a big deal, but the really big deal is when the guys come out." Do you think it’s easier to come out as a woman?
SS: Everything that John [Amaechi] is going through, every thought that he probably had, that entered his mind, I would promise you that I probably had those same thoughts.
My decision to do it was no easier than his decision. He is retired from the NBA, and I’m not retired, I’m still playing. I don’t think it is something that society is ready to accept, male or female. I don’t think the entire world is ever going to like it.
The men also have more money. In basketball, football and baseball, they make millions and millions of dollars a year in salaries, so they don’t have to worry about "what if I don’t have any endorsements" or "what if I don’t get any more endorsements?"
AE: It seems like it would be easier for men to come out, because they have more money to fall back on.
SS: I think that is what it really comes down to. That makes it easier, because the men are set financially, even if they never got another endorsement in their lives after coming out.