Seattle Storm, WNBA make LGBT pride push


by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News & The Associated Press

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisDaniels5

Posted on June 1, 2014 at 11:28 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 2 at 7:25 AM

SEATTLE - Sheril Pollard stands out in the rafters of Key Arena.  Her booming voice echoes in the lower bowl, as she cheeers on her beloved Seattle Storm.

"Dee-fense!" yells Pollard, who calls herself a long time fan and ticket holder.

She has a pre-game ritual, which involves going to the Seattle Center Armory, picking up a pizza, and allowing plenty of time to get to the Arena, and hang up all her banners.  That includes the rainbow "Storm" flag, high above the end line.

"The Rainbow banner represents our support of the gay and lesbians in basketball," says Pollard. "Looking around, I would says it's easily 60 percent of the fan base."

"We're proud of the way we've marketed to our LGBT community," says Storm CEO Karen Bryant, as she sat courtside on Sunday night. "We have several partnerships in the community, in LGBT bars, and retailers."

The Storm say they welcome what is now a league wide initiative.  The WNBA has officially launched a campaign to market specifically to the LGBT community, a move that makes it the first pro league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered fans to its games.

The effort, includes a new "WNBA Pride" website, and a mandate for teams to participate in local pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups to raise awareness of inclusion through grassroots events, and advertising with lesbian media. A nationally televised pride game will take place between Tulsa and Chicago on Sunday, June 22. All 12 teams, including the Storm, will also have some sort of pride initiative over the course of the season.

"For us it's a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately," WNBA President Laurel Richie told the Associated Press last month. "This is one of those moments in the `W' where everybody comes together."

It's taken the league 18 years to take the step, though it had discussions about the possibility previously. Teams have done some promotion locally, sponsoring booths at gay pride events and hosting groups at games.

Before launching the campaign, the league took a close look at its fan base. It commissioned a study in 2012 that found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league's games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.

The Storm will have two Pride-related games later this month, to celebrate Pride Month in Seattle.  They will include special shirts, and pre and post games events.