Liberty game against Fever more than just hoops
By Patrick Ralph
This past Sunday was just another afternoon filled with WNBA action across the country. Well, except for in White Plains, N.Y. where the Liberty snapped their two-game losing streak and defeated the winless Fever, 78-75, behind a game-winning three-pointer from Marissa Coleman with 16.8 seconds remaining.
But it had nothing to do with the Liberty improving to 3-4 on the season.
In fact, for the eighth consecutive year, the Liberty hosted Pride Night at the Westchester County Center. The event is just one part of a league-wide celebration of Pride Month in June, in which every WNBA team will hold their own Pride Night during the month.
“Just to be with an organization and a league that supports [LGBT community] and even has initiatives for it like Pride Month and to have these Pride games really means a lot,” Liberty guard Shavonte Zellous said.
Last year, the Liberty became the first professional sports team to have a float in the New York City Pride March. The WNBA, which is celebrating the month for a fifth consecutive year, is planning to both march and have a float in this year’s edition of the parade on June 24th in New York.
Despite no longer playing most of their home games at Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan, the Liberty have brought their social activism with them to their new home in the suburbs of the Big Apple.
Last week, the Liberty participated in the 2018 LOFT Pride event in White Plains. The celebration was put together by the LOFT: LGBT Community Center, which is an organization based in White Plains. The group’s mission since the 1980s has been to promote LGBT rights and advocate for reforms.
For the Liberty, being able to participate in the month-long celebration is something that the team values greatly.
“We just embrace everybody, every culture, every individual,” said Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers, who led the team in scoring with 16 points on Pride Night. Just to be a part of it is a great feeling. It’s great to know that you can come to the WNBA and be accepted.”
The Liberty return the invitation and welcomed LOFT to Pride Night on Sunday by holding a pregame panel.
Head coach Katie Smith noted after the game that the team and the entire league advocates for the LGBT community throughout the whole year.
“It’s not only this month,” Smith said. “I think for us this sport it’s really about that diversity. We’re all so different. We look different, we come from different places. It’s something that we pride ourselves about being a part of a sport and a league that really kind of owns that every single day. So we’re very proud of our league and who we are as women. We kind of embrace it, but it’s a lot of fun this month to really put it out there and have people come out and really celebrate and be comfortable in their own skin.”
For Coleman, who stole the show with her game-winning three, what makes Pride Night so important for her is the role of the LGBT community in the WNBA.
“The celebration is exciting,” Coleman said. “I’m proud of our league for having this celebration and this inclusion. We have players, we have fans that are in that community, so it’s important for us to support each other and have that inclusivity.”
Also included in Sunday’s festivities for the third straight year was the NOH8 campaign, which is an organization focused on promoting human, gender and marriage equality through advocacy and education.
Participating in her first WNBA Pride Night, rookie Kia Nurse was able to understand the impact that such an event can have on others.
“Obviously there’s a lot of important things that come along with Pride Month and being able to celebrate it,” Nurse said. “Our league does a great job with that and we have people that are part of that community. But I think it’s great for us to have a game like this to be a part of that celebration of love and NOH8 campaigns and unity. It’s an important thing that our team and our league especially does a great job of.”