When it comes to playing sports, millions of kids all over the world aspire to making it to the big leagues. Few ever do.
Candice Wiggins was the rare exception, and she achieved her dream of becoming a professional basketball star. Now retired, she’s saying that she found herself in an all-female league where the pressure against straight athletes has gotten out-of-hand.
Candice’s basketball career took off when she got a scholarship to Stanford University to be a part of their basketball program.
In her freshman year, Candice led Stanford to a 32–3 season.
By her senior year, she was a four-time All-American and her dreams of becoming a professional basketball player were turning into a reality.
In 2008, Candice was drafted third in the WNBA, where she was picked up by the Minnesota Lynx:
However, Candice soon realized that she was out of place in the league.
Candice started to feel excluded due to the fact that she was a heterosexual female. After eight years of what she describes as bullying on and off the court, Candice came to the conclusion that her dream wasn’t quite turning out the way she had envisioned.
During an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune published Monday, Candice opened up for the first time about her thoughts on the league:
“It wasn’t like my dreams came true in the WNBA. It was quite the opposite.”
Despite the fact that Candice was excelling on the court after being named WNBA’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award as well as WNBA All-Rookie Team, Candice felt punished over her sexuality, stating that there is a “very, very harmful” culture in the WNBA if you’re not gay:
“People were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time. I had never been called the B-word so many times in my life than I was in my rookie season. I’d never been thrown to the ground so much. The message was: ‘We want you to know we don’t like you.’
In fact, the bullying became so difficult that in 2015, Candice decided to hang up her basketball shoes, despite knowing her time wasn’t up:
“I wanted to play two more seasons of WNBA, but the experience didn’t lend itself to my mental state. 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. … My spirit was being broken.”
Candice claims that 98% of the women in the league are gay. Because she felt like she was in the minority, she says it made her an outcast:
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins said. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they [the other players] could apply.”
As for why Candice is opening up about this now, she said:
“I try to be really sensitive. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams or aspirations, or the dreams of the WNBA. I want things to be great, but at the same time it’s important for me to be honest in my reflections.”
Candice added that she is currently writing a tell-all book about her experiences in the WNBA. She is also training to become a professional beach volleyball player.