The 5th WNBA season opened on May 28th with a win for the Los Angeles Sparks over the Houston Comets. The close 66-63 victory was an upset for the Comets, the five-time champions for the women’s professional basketball league, who played without two of their star players, Cynthia Cooper (retired) and Sheryl Swoopes (injured). The Sparks held a preseason pep rally earlier this month to honor a group of fans often overlooked and ignored by advertisers in the WNBA: lesbians. On May 4, Sparks players met with members of a local lesbian dance club, the Girl Bar, and will attend a similar event on June 5 after the first home game of the season. On June 14, the team will host “Gay Pride Kick-Off.” The Miami Sol also appears at local lesbian bars and is helping sponsor a gay festival in South Beach.
The league, which enjoyed huge success in its first years, is conducting an ad campaign this year to improve league attendance, which dropped off by 10 percent last year. The “Basketball Is Beautiful” campaign consists of black and white 30-second ad spots featuring plays by best known stars like Dawn Staley of the Charlotte Sting, Chamique Holdsclaw of the Washington Mustics and Sheyl Swoopes of the Houston Comets.