Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird, one of the most respected players in the WNBA, has came out in a ESPNW profile.
The former Olympian also revealed she is in relationship with soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
“I’m gay. Megan’s my girlfriend,” Bird says in the piece. “These aren’t secrets to people who know me. don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me.”
She chose to open up now , she says, because “that’s what feels right.”
“So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time,” she continued. “I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.”
Rapinoe, of course, is one of U.S. Soccer’s most famous players, and has been out since 2012. She’s also made an effort to make pro sports more LGBT-inclusive through advocacy with organizations like Athlete Ally. But Bird says her partner’s work is separate from her own.
“This actually has nothing to do with Megan, in terms of how free I feel to talk about it,” Bird said. “This has been something I’ve been on the verge of doing for a long time.”
In the past year, fellow WNBA stars Diana Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne having also come out. But at the same time ex-player Candace Wiggins declared 98% of the WNBA was comprised of lesbians who “bullied” straight players.
Bird says she’s happy the league has become more supportive of gay players, noting that “homophobia hurts the league.” (Her fellow Olympic basketball teammates Brittney Griner, Seimone Augustus, and Angel McCoughty are all out, as well.)
Bird and Rapinoe first met at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and found they had a lot in common: Rapinoe is also Seattle-based and plays for the women’s pro soccer team there, the Reign.
“Sue has the same convictions about her life and the things she believes in as I do but, I think, does it in a different way,” Rapinoe told ESNPW.”It’s important to create space for athletes—and people in general who are in the spotlight and don’t want all the attention on them—to be who they are in a way that’s comfortable for them.”
Bird has spent 14 years in the WNBA, entering as the first draft pick in 2002. She’s also earned four gold medals as part of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team.