Daily Mail reports:
A former basketball star claims that she was bullied out of the WNBA because she was straight.
Candice Wiggins, who retired abruptly from the New York Liberty last March, said she had hoped to play another two seasons in the WNBA but could no longer cope with the ‘toxic’ culture.
She claims she was physically and emotionally abused by her fellow players because she was not gay and has chosen to embrace her femininity.
There are no official statistics to back up Wiggins’ claims that 98 per cent of WNBA players are gay, although the sport has had a number of high profile stars come out.
They include Brittney Griner, an outspoken proponent of LGBT issues and who recently helped lead USA Olympic Women’s team to victory, three-times Olympic Gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes and three-time WNBA champion Seimone Augustus.
Meanwhile, Wiggins has also spoken in support of LGBT issues, including WNBA Pride Night.
But she insists that her heterosexuality and femininity meant she wasn’t welcome in the WNBA.
‘There was a lot of jealousy and competition,’ Wiggins said. ‘The way I looked, the way I played – those things contributed to the tension.
‘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.”
‘My spirit was being broken,’ she added.
Wiggins, the No. 3 overall draft pick out of Stanford in 2008 who went onto play for four different WNBA teams, was speaking ahead of the release of her autobiography ‘The WNBA Diaries.’
The retired basketball star has set her sights on a new career, pro-volleyball, a sport which she claims is a ‘celebration of women and the female body as feminine, but strong and athletic.’
‘It’s really the culture I’m signing up for. This is really who I am.’
She insists the WNBA encouraged its women to look and act like men in the NBA.
‘It comes to a point where you get compared so much to the men, you come to mirror the men,’ she said. ‘So many people think you have to look like a man, play like a man to get respect.
‘I was the opposite. I was proud to a be a woman, and it didn’t fit well in that culture.’
Wiggins says that while she struggled to fit in with the WNBA, she loved playing professional basketball in Europe, describing the moment she led her Grecian team to victory in the Euro Cup as one of the highlights of her career.
‘It was incredible,’ she said of her time playing in Europe for Spain, Turkey, Israel and Greece. ‘It shaped my entire world view.’
But European basketball doesn’t pay the bills like the WNBA does, which caps top players’ salaries at $109,000 per season – up to five times as much as in the EU.
The 30-year-old, who also played for the Minnesota Lynx, Tulsa Shock and Los Angeles Sparks, is being inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions’ Bretibard Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
She enjoyed a strong start to her WNBA career, averaging 15.7 points per game in her first season. But her career suffered a blow when she suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2010 that knocked her out that season.
When she returned, she averaged just 5.9 points, giving her an average of 8.6 points over her sight seasons.
Aside from her injury, and the alleged bullying, Wiggins appeared disenfranchised with the WNBA which she complained had poor viewership and ticket sales.
‘It was a depressing state,’ she said.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the WNBA and the New York Libertys for comment.