Wings, WNBA celebrating Pride Month

Dallas Wings’ Allisha Gray, No. 15, faces off against Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus as Courtney Paris looks on, during the Wings’ recent win over the Lynx. Gray was named WNBA’s Rookie of the Month for May.

The WNBA — Women’s National Basketball Association, just in case some of you don’t know — is celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month in June, for the fourth year in a row. And that includes our very own Dallas Wings (watch for special Wings/Pride Month coverage coming soon to Dallas Voice, online and in print).

WNBA President Lisa Borders said the league is “honored and privileged to celebrate the diversity of our fan base,” and that the WNBA “embraces the principles of equality and mutual respect and is always working to ensure an inclusive environment at our games and events.”

WNBA Pride Month includes four nationally televised games on ESPN2: Washington Mystics at the Dallas Wings on June 6 (7 p.m. CST), and Dallas Wings at the Los Angeles Sparks on June 13 (9 p.m. CST). On June 23 Minnesota Lynx host the Mystics (7 p.m. CST), and on June 29, the Connecticut Sun hosts the Seattle Storm (7 p.m., CST).

WNBA has also announced a collaboration with GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) and Fanatics, in which fans can choose from an exclusive line of Fanatics-designed Pride T-shirts featuring WNBA or NBA team logos. A portion of the proceeds will benefit GLSEN, and the league will donate $10,000 to help support GLSEN’s efforts to create safer and more inclusive school environments for all students.

Throughout June, teams will offer special ticket packages and in-arena experiences for Pride-themed games. There will also be community outreach and activation with local Pide groups, festivals and parades, with team activities will be showcased on WNBA and NBA Cares social media channels with the hashtag #wnbapride.

That includes, for the second year in a row, the WNBA, NBA and NBA Development League marching together and having a float in the New York City Pride March on June 25.

(Dallas and Fort Worth both stage their LGBT Pride parades and events in the fall — September in Dallas and October in Fort Worth. Dallas Wings representatives have said the team plans to participate in the local Pride celebrations then.)

Dallas Wings stand at 3-2 going into tonight’s game against The New York Liberty, at Madison Square Garden. The Liberty are 2-3 on the season. Wings play the Indiana Fever (2-4) on Tuesday in Indianapolis, and are back home in College Park Center in Arlington to host the Washington Mystics (4-2). Next Friday, the Los Angeles Sparks (3-2) come to College Park Center.

For a complete Dallas Wings schedule, go here. For tickets, go here.

Additional information on team events and celebrations can be found at WNBA.com/pride. The 2017 WNBA regular season runs through Sept. 3. For more information on the WNBA, game tickets and the full 2017 Twitter live stream schedule, visit wnba.com.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Dallas Wings end preseason with a win

Kaela Davis, left, scored 14 points in the Dallas Wings’ May 6 preseason victory over Indiana Fever. Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 13 points in the game. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Rookie Kaela Davis, the 6’2″ guard who helped South Carolina win the NCAA championship in March, scored 14 points to lead the Dallas Wings to an 80-75 win over the Indiana Fever on Saturday night, May 6, in the Wings’ second — and final — preseason game this year. It was Davis’ second dougle-digit-scoring game of the pre-season. She was also perfect at the free throw line, going 6-for-6, and ended the game with 4 rebounds.

The Wings kick off regular season play against the Mercury in Phoenix on May 14, after a 1-1 pre-season slate. Their first home game in May 20 against the Minnesota Lynx.

The Wings started off slow against the Fever, ending the first half down by 9 points. But veteran Skylar Diggins-Smith, back full force this year after sitting out much of last year — the team’s first in Dallas — with a knee injury, kicked into high gear with five unanswered points in the third quarter, to bring the Wings to within 1, 44-45. With just over a minute left in the quarter, Davis scored on a reverse lay-up to give the Wings a 55-54 lead going into the fourth.

Diggins-Smith had 13 points in the game, including one three-pointer. She had 2 rebounds and 5 assists.

Team-wise, the Wings recorded 19 total assists, the most in preseason play, and 38 rebounds, compared to 17 assists ad 36 rebounds for the Fever. It was the second straight game in which the Dallas players out-rebounded their opponents.

Another veteran, Karima Christmas-Kelly, hit in double-digits, with 10 points, while veteran Courtney Paris led the team in rebounds with 9. Allisha Gray, another rookie from the South Carolina championship team, was 2-for-2 on three-pointers.

All but two players on the pre-season roster saw playing time in Saturday’s game, and every Wings player that took the court scored at least 2 points. The team’s field goal percentage was 39.7 percent — 42.9 percent on three-pointers — and they were 69.7 percent from the free throw line.

Diggins-Smith praised the Wings rookies that played in Saturday night’s game, calling the victory over the Fever “a win by committee.” Head Coach Fred Williams said defensive pressure by his players, “especially in the fourth quarter,” was a key factor. He also praised the team’s rookies, and said that this game was “just the beginning” of Diggins-Smith return to full power. “The way she is orchestrating things with her teammates is keeping us really balanced,” he said of the four-year veteran.

—  Tammye Nash

One more thing about the Wings …..

During Media Day today at College Park Center, Dallas Wings players Tiffany Bias, Kayla Thornton and Courtney Paris decided to bust out a little Destiny’s Child ….. And apparently Tiffany and Courtney didn’t know how well Kayla can sing !

—  Tammye Nash

Dallas Wings get ready to kick off the season

The Dallas Wings, DFW’s WNBA team based at the College Park Center at the University of Texas in Arlington, kicks off the 2017 season on May 14, and their first home hame is May 20. On Tuesday, May 2, the players and coaches invited the DFW media to College Park Center for Media Day, giving the reporters a chance to get to know the 2017 Wings. Here are a few shots from the activities. And watch for a report here on InstanTEA from the press conference also held Tuesday.

—  Tammye Nash

Gay man proposes during Bulls vs. Spurs game in Chicago

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A gay man surprised his partner with a “ring pop” engagement ring and a proposal at center court at Chicago’s United Center during a break in play in the Chicago Bulls vs. San Antonio Spurs game Thursday night, Dec. 8. A Tweet quoted by TheBigLead.com identifies the two only as Michael and Jake.

The Bulls mascot, Benny, pulled one of the men out out of his seat and onto the court, dancing around and encouraging the man to dance. The Benny turns the man’s back to court and pretends to brush his hair as the dancing cheerleaders form two lines behind and his partner appears on the other side of the court. When the first man turns around, his partner walks to him, between the two rows of cheerleaders, before kneeling and offering the ring pop and popping the question.

Reporter Sean Highkin told TheBigLead.com that the two men kissed and that the reaction from the crowd was very positive. Watch the video below.

Oh yeah. The Bulls won, 95-91.

—  Tammye Nash

Australian Opals lose to Serbia in quarter finals

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Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips scored 10 points in Wednesday’s quarter finals game against Serbia. But her strong contribution wasn’t enough to score a win.

Phillips is competing in the Olympics as part of the Australian Opals basketball team. In the first week of play, the Opals were undefeated. Serbia, competing for the first time in Olympics competition, beat Australia 73-71.

This is the first time since the 1992 games in Barcelona that the Opals didn’t win a medal in women’s basketball.

—  David Taffet

Out coach Chris Burns blazes a new path

ChrisBurnsGrowing up in Merrimack, N.H., Chris Burns’ life revolved around basketball. He’d played it since age 6, and loved the team camaraderie, individuality, creativity and freedom of the sport. But then he was cut from his middle school team.

Just 4-feet-11-inches in ninth grade, he scrapped his way onto the freshman squad. Then he grew “like a foot” over the summer. “Everything came together for me,” he recalls.

He made the Providence College team, then transferred to and played at nearby Bryant University. After graduation Burns played for Albany of the Continental Basketball Association, then semi-pro around the Northeast.

When his playing days were over, he wanted to stay in the game. In 2009 he joined the Rhode Island College staff as an assistant coach. Today he’s in his fourth year as an assistant at Bryant, his alma mater.

So far, a fairly typical story. But Burns is a bit different from any other Division I men’s basketball coach: He is the only one who is openly gay.

His first realization that he might be gay came as a sophomore or junior in high school. Like many athletes, he had a tough time reconciling his feelings with his self-image.

“I had never been physical with a guy. I dated a cheerleader. But when I was by myself, I knew who I was attracted to,” Burns recalls.

“I thought I needed to keep up my image with females. But that was never what I wanted.”

At the end of high school, Burns met Anthony Nicodemo, a high school basketball coach in New York. Though living nearly 200 miles apart, they found ways to spend time together. Their relationship was strong and deep — and closeted. For several years, no one knew their secret.

The two men did not use the “g”-word, even with themselves. “We talked about being the best man at each other’s wedding,” Burns says.

Had he not been playing basketball, he notes, his coming-out process might have been quicker and easier. In the locker room, he was surrounded by fear. “I didn’t want anyone to know,” he says. “I was going through my own slow personal journey. I wasn’t ready to tackle emotions. It was more comfortable for me to suppress my feelings.”

Eventually, Burns began venturing out. He and Nicodemo went to gay bars in New York. They made gay friends. Both became more comfortable in their own skins.

“I was living the way I wanted,” Burns says. At 30 years old, “it felt ridiculous that I had been afraid to go out, that I constantly looked over my shoulder and monitored my social media.”

His first steps out of the closet were risky. At first, he simply stopped worrying about what he said. Then he realized he had to do more. He told family members and non-basketball friends.

Two years later he told Bryant’s associate athletic director he was gay. It was a spontaneous coming-out gesture, and his reaction was “great.”

Burns told others, and then his head coach. His reaction was “who cares?” But he did warn Burns about “not risking my profession.”

So — even though the comment had been made from a position of caring – Burns’ coming-out process stalled. For a year and a half, he stayed in a self-imposed basketball closet.

“I agonized,” Burns says. “I wanted to get on with my life, but I didn’t know what that meant. If I came out, would I hurt the other coaches, my players, or me?”

Two months ago, Burns decided to take the leap. He told the other Bryant coaches, then the Bulldogs’ three captains.

Those players were the hardest. “I was all emotional,” he says with a slight laugh. “After talking to my parents, friends and staff, I was scared of these 20-year-olds.”

He told them he might have to quit. “No! We need you here!” they said.

And that was that. Burns told the rest of the team shortly thereafter. There were hugs and heartfelt comments. No one said a negative word. He’s treated the same as before. In fact, Burns says, some bonds are even stronger.

He hangs out in the same locker room he knew as a player. It’s a comfortable place for everyone.

One thing has changed: Burns takes time every day to plow through the “ridiculous amount” of emails, texts, even letters he’s received. They’ve come from conference rivals, other basketball players and coaches, plus young kids and 70-year-olds he’s never met.

All say how proud they are of him.

“Everyone has this idea that sports people are close-minded,” Burns says. “That idea is as outdated as the one that homosexuality should be demonized. Sports people have evolved as much as everyone.

“People are just people. It’s overwhelming to see.”

— Dan Woog

The Dallas Lonestar Basketball Association is the local gay basketball team.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jason Collins signs contract with Brooklyn Nets, becomes first openly gay player in NBA

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Jason Collins

Jason Collins became the NBA’s first active openly gay player Sunday, signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, the Associated Press reported.

Collins will join the Nets for their game Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.

With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” general manager Billy King said in a statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”

Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets’ coach and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment,” Commissioner Adam Silver said.

The Nets worked out Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again Sunday, with his twin brother, Jarron, hinting that history would be made.

“Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. Today should be a pretty cool day!” Jarron Collins wrote on Twitter.

The news on Collins comes as Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL draft combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.

Jason Collins played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, the 7-foot Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.

His announcement last spring was followed by numerous NBA players insisting he would be welcomed in the locker room. Collins has played for five other teams and is well respected inside and outside the league — he attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

“I just know Jason as a person and as a player. That’s what I’m happy about. He has earned it. He’s a great guy. It’s good for the league. The important thing is to judge him as a person and a basketball player,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.

“I know people who have coached him, and I know how highly thought of he is.”

The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn’t be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.

“We’re going to bring in a basketball player,” King said. “It’s not about marketing or anything like that.”

The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.

Collins is tied for third in Nets history with 510 games played, and also ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, and offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A limited offensive player, the Nets hope he still provides a presence defensively and on the boards.

“I know Jason Collins is a competitor. One thing I know about him is he fouls very hard,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said with a laugh. “He’s one of those tough veterans. I’m sure he’s happy to be back playing in the league. Welcome back.”

—  Steve Ramos

Mark Cuban wonders if he’s a homophobe

Cuban emphatically states his case.

Dan Devine over at the Ball Don’t Lie sports blog reported earlier today on Mark Cuban’s comment yesterday to “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons for a recording of the podcast The B.S. Report. Winding down the weekend’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Simmons and Cuban engaged in conversation of The KissCam which apparently took an awkward turn. From Ball Don’t Lie:

And then, as Carly Carioli of the Boston Phoenix wrote in a blog post accompanying an excellent feature story on the conference, “the atmosphere turned even weirder.”

… Cuban began telling the story of how he’d almost fired a Mavs employee for encouraging Dallas fans to do the wave. Cuban hates the wave. “I’d rather have 60 minutes of Kiss Cam,” he said, to laughs. Simmons has long been on record as being a fan of the Kiss Cam […] and piped up in favor of it. “I like the Kiss Cam,” Simmons said.

“That’s because you and your boyfriend are always on it,” Cuban spat.

Chances are, if you’ve read or listened to content created by Bill Simmons over the past seven years, you’ve caught wind of the fact that he’s married to a woman, and that the two of them have children. Not that those things would, or do, preclude a man from also liking men and/or having boyfriends, but, y’know, for the record, there’s been no public indication that Bill Simmons is gay.

Devine later goes on to criticize Cuban’s remark as adolescent. By all accounts, it appears The Boston Phoenix’s Carly Carioli was first on the scene with this post, labeling the remark homophobic. Gay sports site OutSports labeled it distasteful.

Cuban posted this today in Blog Maverick explaining his side. From Cuban:

I made a mistake in making the comment. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful. It wasn’t a comment on anyone’s sexuality. It was just me trying to be funny. It wasn’t. I quickly realized it and tried to fix it. I hoped at the time I didn’t offend anyone.

This blog post is not about trying to defend what I said. I’m not trying to defend my sense of humor. I’m not trying to convince you I’m not a homophobe. I’m not trying to justify anything at all.

I guess what I am doing is admitting that at some level I am prejudiced and that I recognize that I am.  There are a lot of things in my life that I need to improve at. This is one of them. Sometimes I make stupid throw away comments that I quickly realize are wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. It was a mistake and I realized it. I learned from it.

I appreciate the straighties rushing to the side of the LGBT community when the homophobia bell alarms. That’s a nice feeling. We appreciate it. Really. But is this particular instance, that big of a deal? I mean, we do have a sense of humor.

—  Rich Lopez

Inaugural season starts Saturday for Dallas Gay B-Ball Association at Reverchon

Last month, I posted how there’s a new game in town as the Dallas Gay Basketball Association was forming and signing up members. Organizer Steven Coleman called me up yesterday to tell me that Saturday will be the first game day of their inaugural season. For the next seven weeks, the DGBA takes over every Saturday afternoon at Reverchon. And with an impressive number of members to boot.

“We’ve had 42 people sign up,” Coleman says. “So right now, we have six teams of seven.”

They have capped membership for now to avoid being overwhelmed, but that’s a healthy way to start the first season.

Coleman says that an additional two weeks will play after the season for playoffs. The hope is to start a summer league, but right now, the focus is on getting the word out about tomorrow.

The DGBA plays from 2–5 p.m. at the Reverchon Rec.

 

—  Rich Lopez