Sue Bird turns 40 this week however was a standout in claiming her fourth Women’s National Basketball Association (WBNA) title with Seattle Storm, watched from begin to end of the coronavirus shortened season by her girlfriend Megan Rapinoe, the US ladies’s soccer star.
Rapinoe stayed within the WNBA bubble to assist Bird’s newest triumph and celebrated with the crew because the Storm swept previous Las Vegas Aces in three straight video games within the finals.
With 4 Olympic gold medals for the US and 4 FIBA World Cup titles, Bird — on paper at the least — is extra profitable than Rapinoe, winner of two World Cups and a single Olympic gold in 2012.
But each acknowledge that in a single essential space, public notion and assist for his or her respective sport, they’re deeply unequal companions.
It definitely rankles with Bird, who stated it was a scorching subject of dialog with Rapinoe, significantly within the 90 plus days they spent in isolation because the WNBA season performed out from its Florida base.
“Even though we’re female athletes playing at a high level, our worlds, you know, the soccer world and the basketball world are just totally different,” Bird informed Source Sport’s Don Riddell.
“And to be blunt it’s the demographic of who’s playing. Women’s soccer players generally are cute little White girls while WNBA players, we are all shapes and sizes … a lot of Black, gay, tall women … there is maybe an intimidation factor and people are quick to judge it and put it down,” added Bird.
“This country has a deep history of racism, and a deep history of homophobia,” she wrote.
“And if you look at the players in the ‘W’ (WNBA) most of them are Black, and a lot of them are gay,” evaluating the assist and media consideration she and the US National Women’s Team (USWNT) attracted for its 2019 World Cup victory with that for the WNBA.
“Where’s that same energy for the best women’s basketball players on the planet??
“Where’s that power for the ladies’s sports activities that — as an alternative of scanning cute and white and straight — scan tall and black and queer??”
Bird believes the problem does not lie in the marketing of the WNBA, more how society and the outside world is willing to embrace diversity, arguing that the “cute White woman subsequent door” approach does not work for her league.
“You must be true to who you’re and be genuine,” she said.
“And individuals are drawn, particularly in at present’s world, whenever you’re genuine. I believe individuals are drawn to that. And proper now, we’re a league that’s being genuine to who we’re.”
Bird is a member of the executive of the WNBA players’ union and in a tumultuous year has keenly felt the responsibility of showing leadership in a multitude of social injustices.
“I actually felt at instances like an activist, extra so within the organizational a part of it and simply making an attempt to place collectively plans,” she stated.
Those plans have included dedicating their season to Breonna Taylor, a “non-negotiable” in her view.
“If the WNBA was going to have a season finish and so they wished us as gamers to point out up and play, they have been going to must assist us on this struggle and to the league’s credit score, they did,” she said.
Bird is also conscious of the traumatic impact that the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor has had on the psyche of many of those in the tight knit bubble of the WNBA.
“Seeing your pals, your teammates, even our coaches, all types of individuals all through the league to see them must undergo that once more. For me, it was actually troublesome,” she admitted.
“When I hearken to my teammates inform me that once they take their jerseys off, they may very well be Breonna Taylor. I imply, there’s one thing highly effective to that. So all of us got here collectively.”
Both Bird and Rapinoe have additionally voiced robust political opinions, with the soccer participant drawing nationwide headlines together with her stinging criticism of US President Donald Trump because the USWNT headed for that 2019 World Cup triumph in France.
Trump responded in typical fashion on Twitter, whereas Bird subsequently aired her views within the Players Tribune in a chunk entitled: “So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend.”
It’s safe to say both are rooting for a Joe Biden victory in November.
“I need to really feel optimistic. I believe what 2016 taught all of us is it is laborious to be optimistic going into that election,” said Bird.
“All sorts of polls stated that Hillary Clinton was going to win all people, however oh, how might a actuality star really turn out to be the president? And right here we’re.”
They are also supporting Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic front runner in the special senate election in Georgia for a seat currently held by Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, who provoked outrage when she called on league commissioner Cathy Engelber to curtail Black Lives Matters initiatives in which players showed support for the movement.
There have been calls for she be faraway from the league, with the WNBA Players Association tweeting: “E-N-O-UG-H! O-U-T!”
Donning jerseys with “Vote Warnock” emblazoned on them also had an effect recalls Bird.
“The subsequent day we heard that he bought a bunch extra donors and he had lots of exercise on his social media.
“We thought, we can move the needle and it was one of those moments that re-energized us,” she stated.
Bird additionally introduced a few of that power to her play on courtroom as she helped Storm to that record-tying fourth title, the earlier ones in 2004, 2010 and 2018.
In her 17th season within the WNBA and coming off a troublesome interval by damage that induced her to overlook the whole 2019 season and a half of the present marketing campaign, Bird has been the frequent denominator in all these triumphs.
In the playoffs, the purpose guard actually stepped as much as the plate, averaging 9.5 factors and 9.2 assists within the six video games.
Highlights have been a profession excessive 16 assists in Game 1 of the finals in opposition to Las Vegas and 33 general within the three video games.
Her performances drew reward from none apart from LeBron James, however Bird admits to “mixed emotions” given present occasions within the US and all over the world.
“We wanted it to be more than just basketball and I feel that our league really accomplished that. There’s been a lot of highs and a lot of lows throughout it all.”
Bird will now take a brief break earlier than setting her sights on additional triumphs with the Storm subsequent yr but in addition with an eye fixed on a fifth gold medal with the US within the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I’ve always said, given where I am in my career, if I’m healthy and I can still help us win gold medals and I’m asked to compete, there’s no way I’m saying no.
“So if the Olympics does occur after which all these issues are true, then I undoubtedly hope to be there.”
Bird has been a key member of the US nationwide crew since making her debut in 2002, setting a lot of all-time data, together with 89 assists throughout her 4 Olympic successes.
A fifth would set the seal on a outstanding profession that has seen her carry out on the highest degree for thus a few years.