Former WNBA player Candice Wiggins says she was bullied, culture was 'harmful'

WNBA player Candice Wiggins says she made enemies during her time in the pro-ball league because of her sexuality.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wiggins says her heterosexuality made her an outlier in the WNBA.

"Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge," Wiggins said. "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."

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Wiggins says she experienced a "very, very harmful" culture throughout her eight-year career in the WNBA, describing the WNBA as the "survival league."

"There was a lot of jealousy and competition, and we're all fighting for crumbs," Wiggins said. "The way I looked, the way I played – those things contributed to the tension."

The news outlet reported that at least a dozen WNBA players -- current and former -- have come out as gay.

"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.' "

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Wiggins, 30, who announced her retirement last year, described feeling disheartened by the culture of a league she felt pressured women to mimic male players, and she believes the bullying she experienced was partly due to the WNBA being an arm of the NBA.

"It comes to a point where you get compared so much to the men, you come to mirror the men,' Wiggins said. "So many people think you have to look like a man, play like a man to get respect. I was the opposite. I was proud to a be a woman, and it didn't fit well in that culture."

The league in its entirety, Wiggins said, is struggling for relevancy.

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"Nobody cares about the WNBA," Wiggins said. "Viewership is minimal. Ticket sales are very low. They give away tickets, and people don't come to the game."

"I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams or aspirations, or the dreams of the WNBA," Wiggins said. "I want things to be great, but at the same time it's important for me to be honest in my reflections."

Meanwhile, in her post-WNBA life, Wiggins says that she has set her sights on a new sport, now aspiring to pursue pro-beach volleyball and possibly compete in the Olympics.

She also says she has begun writing an autobiography on her journals as a WNBA player, "The WNBA Diaries."