I recently went to my first WNBA game, the Washington Mystics at home against the LA Sparks. I kissed no one, and can’t say that anyone else around me did either, although I wasn’t paying that kind of attention because hey, I was there to watch a basketball game. It certainly didn’t occur to me while I did so that the sort of awkward (to me, anyway) practice of broadcasting couples of any gender configuration kissing in the stands was missing. They had talented children dancing and a kids’ rock band covering Zeppelin on the concourse. I had several friends to distract me, I rarely think to look up at that thing (ADD, what can I say?) and again, hey, basketball game?
Look, it’s girls rocking. Not kissing, so much, but this is what was happening outside the stands for awhile.
It turns out the lack of a so-called “kiss cam” at this and all Mystics’ games was, and is, on purpose. As managing partner Sheila Johnson is widely quoted this week, including in this post on OutSports.com, ” We got a lot of kids here. We just don’t find it appropriate.” This was the twin soundbite to point guard Lindsey Taylor’s statement that “We wouldn’t broadcast on our Jumbotron about abortion issues because of the religious and political conflicts it would cause. It’s a similar, sensitive subject. We don’t want to put anything out there to turn down certain fans.”
So analyzing this can get sticky fast, with underlying issues including but perhaps not limited to the following:
Should women who financially support an organization as fans not be permitted to be broadcast in an activity that’s common at professional sporting events? Should a significant portion of the fan base be told that the sight of them showing affection is repugnant, bad for business and potentially bad for kids? What about men? What about a man and a woman? What if you’re sitting next to someone who kisses you and you’re a. not gay or b. not involved with that person? (Potentially easy answer: thats your problem.)
Are children potentially damaged by the sight of a lesbian couple kissing in 3-d? And should parents be confronted with an issue like this in this kind of environment?
When women’s sports struggle financially and rely on the support of sponsors, must they resort, as to the Mystics have, to one like Exxon Mobil, who received a zero corporate quality rating from the Human Rights Campaign and are the only Fortune 10 company not to have a non-discrimination policy related to sexual orientation?
Why is this issue on the front page of the Sports section when women’s sports routinely struggle for air time (before, during and after games) hence amplifying sponsorship needs and causing the whole circle to remain, sadly, unbroken and back at “no kiss cam” square one?
Do you see what I mean? Ouch, my head.
Women playing basketball in a sub-standard picture which nonetheless indicates what was really going on. I had no plans at the time to publish them, but you get the idea, I hope.
Mike Wise’s column at the Post wins not only because he manages to break down the issue in fairly concise terms, but because the comments handle many aspects of this issue much more eloquently than newspaper comments generally ever manage to do. They’re worth a read for that alone. (Case in point, there are lesbians afoot in a few, saying, hey, why is this an issue? Play basketball, and there are also some that speak to disappointment with discrimination from an organization they have supported financially for years. And there are some that I can’t read all the way through because they I get a little twitchy when confronted with blatant discrimination based on sexual orientation.)
Old references to Brandi Chastain and the World Cup are abounding in this coverage and while history shouldn’t be rewritten and it’s totally ok to indicate who paved some kind of way, that’s maybe not where the focus ought to be. It’s hard to find a new lens when you’re dealing with the same old issues and ideologies, particularly in an atmosphere of commerce and tight funding. And finally, as someone who doesn’t fit the main demographics that Wise mentioned – dads and daughters and lesbian women – and still manages to find women’s basketball perfectly engrossing, I have to wonder what kind of outreach is missing to let people know it’s not not for them, kiss cam or no kiss cam.