SBD/June 23, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Laurel Richie Says Fans, Sponsors Have Been Supportive Of "WNBA Pride" Campaign

WNBA President Laurel Richie said the league's new "WNBA Pride" campaign that markets specifically to LGBT fans is "building on something that previously existed; this isn't a case of a marketing initiative starting 100 percent from scratch," according to Mechelle Voepel of ESPNW. Richie added, "Part of the work we've been doing across the league is to really crystallize our platform, bring a visual element to it, and work very hard to create integration and collaboration between events at a league level and team level." Voepel asked if this marketing campaign is "reflective of a greater societal awareness and openness to LGBT concerns." Richie said, "It's really borne out of an understanding of our fan base. That's where we started the initiative, is really understanding that the LGBT market -- and particularly the lesbian community -- is a core segment of our season-ticket holder base." Richie said she did not "know for sure" if this could have been done 10 years ago. She added, "What I can say is the LGBT market has been with us since the beginning." Asked about the response to the Pride campaign, Richie said, "We've had lots of phone calls since we made this announcement from a whole host of different organizations and corporations who want to have some discussions about partnering with us" (ESPNW.com, 6/20).

READY OR NOT: Voepel noted fans for the most part see the "WNBA Pride" campaign "as a positive step toward recognizing this segment of WNBA supporters, many of whom have felt marginalized or ignored in the nearly two decades since the league has been in business." The league "seems ready to wholeheartedly embrace its LGBT fans." But Richie said that each individual franchise "will manage how it participates." LGBT fans of the Stars said that they "don't feel the franchise has truly reached a comfort level in openly acknowledging them." Stars C Jayne Appel is an ambassador for a group called Athlete Ally, which "encourages straight athletes to 'take a stand against homophobia and transphobia in sports.'" One concern raised at a recent Athlete Ally gathering was the "Kiss Cam" at Stars games. A fan was upset that the Kiss Cam "focused in on two men who are part of the Stars' staff that entertains fans during timeouts." They reacted "in mock horror, suggesting the idea of two men kissing was inherently odd and comedic" (ESPNW.com, 6/20).
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