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Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner shoots against the Minnesota Lynx during a game in Phoenix in 2013. Griner, who is one of a handful of WNBA athletes who have publicly identified themselves as lesbian, was happy the league was embracing the community.
Matt York—AP

The WNBA is launching a marketing campaign to attract gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered fans to its games, making it the first professional sports league to specifically target the LGBT community.

The effort will include having its teams take part in local pride festivals and parades, advertising with lesbian media, and hosting grassroots awareness events, the Associated Press reports. Tulsa and Chicago will play a nationally televised Pride game on June 22.

The LGBT community makes up a significant portion of the WNBA’s fan base. In 2012, a WNBA commissioned study found that 25 percent of lesbians watch WNBA games on TV.

“For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said. “This is one of those moments in the ‘W’ where everybody comes together.”

The WNBA campaign launches amid a wave of greater acceptance of gay athletes in sports: NBA player Jason Collins and the NFL’s St. Louis Rams draftee Michael Sam have become the first openly gay players in their respective sports, and UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon has described his experience as a gay Division I player.


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