UConn’s Auriemma, Stewart react to former WNBA player Wiggins’ comments

Breanna Stewart addresses the crowd at Gampel Pavilion following her fourth national championship. Coach Geno Auriemma (left) watches. The two recently came out and spoke in reaction to Candice Parker's comments on the WNBA. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Former WNBA player Candice Wiggins recently made headlines when she made controversial statements about the WNBA and its players.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wiggins described a WNBA in which she says she was bullied for being heterosexual and her value was diminished.

“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins told the Union-Tribune. “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.”

Wiggins, who announced her retirement from the WNBA last March, also commented on what she considered to be a lack of coverage and media attention for the league.

“Nobody cares about the WNBA. Viewership is minimal. Ticket sales are very low. They give away tickets and people don’t come to the game,” Wiggins told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The WNBA just wrapped up its 20th season and heads into its 21st with some positive increases in viewership and attendance. According to swishappeal.com, average attendance for WNBA games increased by 4.6 percent from the previous season. Viewership for WNBA games on ESPN and ESPN2 also increased by 11 percent from the previous season according to the website.

In this July 16, 2015, file photo, New York Liberty guard Candice Wiggins brings the ball up during the team's game against the Connecticut Sun in New York. Wiggins said her experience playing in the WNBA was "toxic" and was a major reason why she retired last season. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, File)

In this July 16, 2015, file photo, New York Liberty guard Candice Wiggins brings the ball up during the team's game against the Connecticut Sun in New York. Wiggins said her experience playing in the WNBA was "toxic" and was a major reason why she retired last season. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, File)

During her seven years with the WNBA Wiggins averaged 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in an average of 22.3 minutes of playing time. She won a WNBA championship in 2011 with the Minnesota Lynx and was named Sixth Woman of the Year in 2008, her rookie season.

In a response to Wiggins’ claims WNBA president Lisa Borders released a statement defending the league and urging players who may have had experiences similar to Wiggins’ to reach out to her. She emphasized she “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.”

One such player who responded to Wiggins’ comments was former UConn standout Breanna Stewart. In an interview with SportsCenter, Stewart said Wiggins comments should be taken seriously and looked into. However she also shared her disagreement with Wiggins’ more controversial comments.

“[I want] to really stand as an ally to the WNBA and saying that these stereotypes really can’t be said, you can’t marginalize such a big group and say that 98% of the league is gay,” Stewart said.

Stewart later took to Twitter to explain more of her thoughts on the issue that could not fit into the interview.

“…I am not denying Candice her experience. I am truly sorry for any pain she has endured, but my time in the W has been very different,” Stewart tweeted. “I have found the WNBA to be one of the most affirming places you can be. Our league has been a leader on inclusion + progressive action… Let’s worry less about if 98% is “accurate” and ask why: Why does anybody care? Even if it was 100%, WHY DOES IT MATTER???”

UConn women’s basketball head coach and two-time women’s basketball Olympic coach Geno Auriemma also voiced his reaction to Wiggins’ comments in an interview with the Hartford Courant.

"There are some valid points to be made in terms of a league and how it stacks up if you want to compare it to some men's leagues, the NBA, etc," Auriemma told the Courant. "If you want to make some general comments about the league, how the media treats it, the TV exposure, those things, great…However those issues, those comments get completely blown away by the comments about the individuals in the league and the gross generalization of who those people are, what they are, what they stand for, making a blanket accusation of what kind of people they are and the character of those people. And it goes against everything I know and everything I believe and everything I see whenever I interact with the players in the WNBA."

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune Wiggins is now pursuing a career in professional beach volleyball. She is also working on an autobiography of her experience in the WNBA with a current title of “The WNBA Diaries.”


Mariana Dominguez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mariana.dominguez@uconn.edu.