Since opening up about being gay and dating Reign star Megan Rapinoe, Bird said she’s heard from dozens of family, friends and fans who have offered support. “Just tons of positives, good vibes, congrats and well wishes,” Bird said of the reaction.
Sue Bird had no intention of hijacking the WNBA All-Star Game, but in many ways her coming out publicly as gay has been the biggest story entering Saturday’s exhibition between the league’s brightest stars.
During an interview with ESPNW’s Mechelle Voepel, the Storm star was asked if she felt comfortable talking about her private life, which she said momentarily caught her off guard.
And then Bird surprised herself and opened up about her relationship with Megan Rapinoe, the Seattle Reign star and member of the U.S. women’s soccer national team.
Afterward, she called Rapinoe and said: “I think I just came out.”
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“I’m a private person to some degree in that I don’t broadcast my life, but when asked a question, I don’t shy away,” Bird said Friday before All-Star players practiced at KeyArena. “So in some ways, I was ready for somebody to ask me for a long time. I really was. I just wasn’t going to come out and say it.”
Bird, who drew the largest gathering of media Friday, cringed when it was suggested her announcement has overshadowed the All-Star Game.
“I don’t like that at all,” she said. “In some ways because this All-Star (Game) is in Seattle … it was already bending toward Sue gets to play at home for the All-Star Game and it being all about me.
“Now it’s that times a billion because of the recent news. But that was not my intention. This just happened. … I can’t stress enough that this game — and by extension this league — is way, way, way bigger than me or any one player.”
Still, Bird wouldn’t change anything that’s happened this week.
“You know, at the end of the day I’m OK with it,” she said, smiling. “I wouldn’t have done it, if I wasn’t. Look, things happen for a reason. This wasn’t planned or orchestrated in any way. It just came out.”
Since her sexuality has become public, Bird said she’s heard from dozens of family, friends and fans who have offered support.
“The feedback has been great,” she said. “I’ve had some really cool reach-outs, whether it’s people who I haven’t talked to in a while and grew up with. Or people that I’ve come into contact with during my years in Seattle. Just tons of positives, good vibes, congrats and well wishes.”
Storm forward Breanna Stewart, an All-Star reserve for the Western Conference team, said Bird displayed courage to “live her truth.”
“I’m happy for her,” Stewart said. “She’s at a point in her life where she’s content. She’s happy with what she’s doing. Where she is. Who she is. And that’s how it should be.”
Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi, who is gay and married to former WNBA player Penny Taylor, didn’t counsel Bird, her former teammate at Connecticut, about coming out.
“Everyone handles it different,” Taurasi said. “Sue without the limelight is a private person. So I think it was something that came very organically to her.”
Bird realized she was gay at UConn, but said she never went out of her way to keep her private life a secret.
“I can literally and confidently say everybody in my life knew,” Bird said. “The team — they all knew. This was not something — and I really want to stress that — this wasn’t something I was hiding or something that I was tormented by.
“There’s a misconception that if you’re not coming out publicly, then you must be struggling. And that wasn’t the case.”
Imbalance in power
Among the WNBA All-Star starters chosen through voting, there are 31 combined All-Star appearances by West players (including 10 from Bird) and just 12 for the East. The East roster features eight first-time selections.
Due to the imbalance of star power that favors the West, a few WNBA players believe the league might disregard conference affiliation for future All-Star Games much like it does for the playoffs. Last year, the WNBA adopted a postseason in which the top eight teams regardless of conference qualify for the playoffs.
“The beauty about this league is that it’s never been afraid to change things up,” Taurasi said. “It’s probably something they’ll look at and maybe get a more balanced representation of the league’s best players. Because the All-Star (Game) is all about the fans.”
• Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas will start for the Eastern Conference in place of injured Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne.