Candice Wiggins, once a major star in the WNBA and a No. 3 draft pick when she graduated Stanford in 2008, now says that she abruptly quit the league in 2016 at least two years before she wanted to in part because of being incessantly bullied by lesbian players. Wiggins tells the San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview this week that there's a jealous, "toxic," and "very, very harmful" culture in the women's basketball league, and she felt she had to quit last March because her "spirit was broken."
Wiggins goes on to say that some of the problem is due to the fact that the WNBA isn't nearly as popular as the NBA, and those players who do attract a share of notoriety in the league are "all fighting for crumbs," creating "a lot of jealousy and competition" in which she was constantly singled out during her eight-year career for being one of the few heterosexual women in the league. "Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge," she tells 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."
Further she says "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.'"
She also says there was pressure within the league to act like their male counterparts in the NBA, and "I was the opposite. I was proud to a be a woman, and it didn’t fit well in that culture."
As the AP notes, the new interview is a bit of an about-face for Wiggins, who upon her retirement said she "had nothing left to prove," and used up "all the gas in [her] tank."
And for obvious reasons, current members of the WNBA have reacted badly to Wiggins comments disparaging the league, including rookie player Imani Boyette who claims to have been a huge fan of Wiggins growing up. "I don’t discount her experience, I can’t," Boyette tells the AP. "I’m not her nor was I there, but her rhetoric was highly problematic and I felt the need to address it both as a fan of hers and a current WNBA player."
In a blog response Boyette further said, "I don’t want to silence you Candice. I hope we can have an open dialogue about your experiences. But next time, I hope you ask your journalist to interview someone else who was there with you." Boyette also asked that Wiggins "not try to out other women" and "remember your sisters."
Wiggins is the daughter of former San Diego Padres player Alan Wiggins, who notably became the first Major League Baseball player to die of AIDS in 1991, and her brother, Alan Wiggins, Jr., played basketball for USF.