WNBA President Lisa Borders says she was “stunned and disappointed” to read that former star Candice Wiggins found her experience in the league “toxic.”
Wiggins, who retired last season, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the culture in the league was “very, very harmful” and that she was targeted throughout her career for being heterosexual and popular.
In a statement released by the WNBA on Thursday, Borders says: “Of course, it concerns me if any of our players do not have a positive experience and I hope that anyone who feels uncomfortable would reach out to me or others in the league office.”
“In my time with the league and my capacity as a fan before that, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a group of highly competitive women who are driven to succeed at the highest level on the court,” Borders says, “and constantly striving to help create opportunity for all members of their communities. In keeping with that, I’ve found our players to be earnest, heartfelt and eloquent in their responses to Candice’s comments and, as always, clear in their commitment to our league’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect.”
In her interview, Wiggins said she was treated poorly because she was straight. The 30-year-old Stanford graduate said she was bullied from the time she was drafted by Minnesota.
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins said.
At the time she retired last year, Wiggins told The Associated Press that she “had nothing left to prove,” and gave “all the gas in (her) tank.”
“I wanted to play two more seasons of WNBA, but the experience didn’t lend itself to my mental state,” Wiggins added to the newspaper. “It was a depressing state in the WNBA. It’s not watched. Our value is diminished. It can be quite hard. I didn’t like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me.”
Current and former WNBA players were empathetic to Wiggins, but also disputed her claims in social media posts.
Imani Boyette, who just finished her rookie year with the Chicago Sky, posted a lengthy blog on Wiggins’ comments.
“I don’t want to silence you Candice. I hope we can have an open dialogue about your experiences. But next time, I hope you ask your journalist to interview someone else who was there with you,” Boyette wrote. “I ask that you use real statistics. I ask that you not try to out other women. I ask that you try not to defame a league that gave you your platform, whether you like it or not. I ask that you remember your sisters, your fellow WNBA stars, the young girls coming up after you. The WNBA is about inclusion, always has been and always will be.”
Boyette is from Los Angeles and was a huge fan of Wiggins growing up.
“Reading that article hurt me first and foremost because I don’t want anyone to be bullied but more important, I understood the bigger implications of the article,” Boyette told The Associated Press in a text. “I don’t discount her experience, I can’t. I’m not her nor was I there, but her rhetoric was highly problematic and I felt the need to address it both as a fan of hers and a current WNBA player.”
Wiggins, who played eight years in the league with four different teams, said in the interview that she was planning on writing an autobiography on her experiences.