Dallas Wings veteran Plenette Pierson says the team is happy to welcome its LGBT fans
Sports fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are accustomed to an embarrassment of riches, so to speak, when it comes to having professional athletes around. There’s the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks, the Texas
Rangers, the Dallas Stars, Dallas Elite, FC Dallas, Dallas Sidekicks … .
And now, you can add the WNBA’s Dallas Wings to the list. But don’t just lump the Wings in with, say, the Mavs or the Stars. “We’re different,” says team leader Plenette Pierson.
Not us, though,” Pierson said during a recent interview. “We’re all really relatable.
“You’re likely to see us out at the grocery store or wherever, and if you see and want a photo with us, ask us. We’re all OK with that. We’re real people, and we aspire to be in close contact with the community.”
The Wings — formerly the Tulsa Shock — are just shy of half-way through their first season as a DFW team. As of press time Thursday, June 23, they stood at 6-9 on the season, putting them in third place, out of six teams, in the WNBA Western Conference. They were set to play the San Antonio Stars, 2-10 on the season and in last place in the Western Conference, on Thursday night.
But Pierson said she and her teammates never take any game for granted, even against a 2-10 team. “You have to go out every game and play your best,” she said. “Win or lose, you have to take lessons from each game you play.”
In previous seasons, the WNBA playoffs have featured the top four teams from each conference, based on their regular season records. Starting this year, though, the top eight teams in the league, regardless of conference, qualify for the playoffs, and will be seeded based on their regular season records.
And instead of a series of games at each level, the first and second rounds are single-elimination. The semi-finals round and the finals will be best-of-five contests.
The Wings’ 6-7 record puts them, as of Thursday afternoon, in a tie for sixth place with the Eastern Conference’s Chicago Sky. But, Pierson said, the team is really just getting started.
“We had a phenomenal season last year,” Pierson said, referring to the team’s 18-16 season record, which earned them their first playoff berth since moving to Tulsa in 2010. “But even though we have a lot of the same players, we’re still a young team. We’ve still got a learning curve this year, because we’ve had some injuries and we’re still learning how to play together as a team” with those injuries and other factors in play.
And while the team got off to a slow start in its first year in Dallas, Pierson said, “We’re going to weather this storm. There are a lot of teams that are peaking early, and we’re still getting to top form. When we all get healthy and get out there on the court, it will be something to see.”
The Wings were founded before the 1998 season as the Detroit Shock. They moved to Tulsa in time for the 2010 season, keeping the Shock name. But when they came to Dallas last year to get ready for the 2016 season in their new home, the management chose to go with a new name, choosing Wings in part in tribute to the Pegasus that has long been a symbol of Dallas.
For Pierson, the team’s move to Texas is something of a homecoming. Born in Houston, she grew up nearby in Kingwood, graduating from Kingwood High School in 1999. She played her college career at Texas Tech, from 1999 to 2003, and was a first-round draft choice for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2003.
Pierson spent three seasons — 2003, 2004 and 2005 — in Phoenix before heading to Detroit in 2006 to join the Shock. She moved to the New York Liberty from 2010-2014, before rejoining the Shock in 2015, helping lead the team to its first playoff game since moving to Tulsa.
Now in her 14th season, Pierson is the Wings’ tried-and-true veteran. She has two WNBA championships under her belt — in 2006 and 2008, both with the Detroit Shock. She won the WNBA’s first Sixth Woman of the Year Award — recognizing the league’s most valuable player for her team coming off the bench as a substitute, or sixth woman — in 2007, and in 2015 played in the All-Star Game.
And now, she said, she’s happy to be back in Texas.
“Texas is a huge sports state, and Dallas is a huge sports town,” Pierson said. “The Texas fans really embrace you.”
That includes the LGBT community. A team spokeswoman said that between 30 and 35 percent of the Wings’ season ticketholders come from the LGBT community, which has always shown a lot of support and enthusiasm for the WNBA as a whole.
Pierson agreed that the LGBT community here as welcomed the team with open arms. “The LGBT community is a great community, really supportive of us. It’s a great market for the Wings, and a great market for the WNBA overall.
“We want fans in the seats for our games, and the LGBT community gives us that. They give us a lot of support, and we’re happy to reach out to the community in return. We’ve always had great fans, and we’re happy to see that continue in Dallas.”
Pride Night at Dallas Wings
The Dallas Voice and Dallas Wings Basketball invite you to come celebrate Pride Night with the Wings at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at College Park Center, 600 S. Center St. in Arlington, as the Wings take on the Indiana Fever.
Tickets are $10-$20, which is up to 50 percent off selected seats. Visit wings.wnba.com/promo and use the code PRIDENIGHT for discounted tickets.
Pride Night with the Dallas Wings is sponsored by Dallas Voice.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2016.