Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise is angry that the nation’s capital is so backward that it doesn’t put lesbian kisses on the Jumbotron of the Verizon Center during Washington Mystics games. He demanded to know in his Monday column "how long does a league keep some of its most loyal and longtime customers in the closet?" The "taboo" is showing us "where we really are," which is not progressive enough for Mike Wise. He’s not really impressed with the argument that grade-school kids might have to ask their parents what’s going on with the KissCam:
"We got a lot of kids here," Sheila Johnson, the Mystics' managing partner, said when asked last week at a game. "We just don't find it appropriate."
Understood is that women's professional basketball has two major fan bases: dads and daughters, and lesbians. The KissCam issue, frivolous on its surface, puts the effort to cater to both audiences squarely at odds.
Devon Goldsmith, returning to her seat for last Thursday's game between Washington and Chicago, understands Johnson's rationale -- begrudgingly.
"It's one thing for Daddy and Mommy to be kissing, but Mommy kissing Mommy?" said Goldsmith, a 26-year-old systems analyst from Silver Spring. She also happens to play linebacker for the D.C. Divas semipro women's football team and is openly gay. "I don't think people are ready for it now.
"I can see people at the box office, saying, 'I want my money back.' You don't want to curb the fan base by giving something they're not ready for."
But how long does a league keep some of its most loyal and longtime customers in the closet? How long should any historically persecuted group keep quiet when the Mystics take sponsorship dollars from a company noted for discrimination against gays?
He lamented the Mystics accepting support from Exxon Mobil, which scores poorly with the gay-left Human Rights Campaign. But even the HRC is happy with the Mystics for helping them along with their gay and lesbian advocacy off the Jumbotron screen:
The WNBA has indeed done a better job appreciating its diverse audience without offending gay people. As Cathy Nelson, the Human Rights Campaign's vice president, said in a phone interview, "Sheila and the Mystics have been nothing but supportive in our mind, showing up at all our dinners, events, even bringing the whole team once."
Wise can’t accept that bargain, preserving family entertainment in the arena and promoting gay activism in the wider world. He demands the WNBA put itself on the cutting edge of societal evolution with large-screen lesbian smooching:
But doesn't the KissCam question distill where we really are? A rite of spring in the NBA -- where couples of mixed creeds, ethnicities and ages are suckered by peer pressure into puckering -- is somehow taboo in the WNBA.
On the Jumbotron at Wizards games, couples on their first date sometimes balk at kissing, which generates laughter. Other times couples are ready for the lens -- passionate kissing and theatrical groping, which usually brings the building to a crescendo of hilarity.
Funny, huh, not one same-sex couple has ever been shown on that screen.