(This story was published in 2005).

By: Pat Griffin

On Sept. 14, 2005, Sports Illustrated posted a column by Jay Mohr, “I Don’t Love This Game.” Mohr describes the WNBA as “unwatchable” and a “debacle of a league.” He can’t understand how anyone can be entertained by “7 foot, 225 pound women from Poland who have less basketball skills than the worst NBA D-leaguer.” He goes on to malign lesbian fans of the WNBA, describing them as “lumberjacks” and “brutes.” Strangely, he also cites the ticket price of “a hundred bucks to sit on the floor” as more evidence of the WNBA’s inferiority.

This column is only funny if you like mean-spirited, sexist and homophobic jokes. Mr. Mohr is a man who is apparently so terrified of sitting next to a lesbian and being in the male minority at a basketball game that he quakes with fear at the prospect of offending lesbian fans by cheering against the home team.

I expect that someone who writes a column for Sports Illustrated might actually have something intelligent and informed to say. Oh, wait. I forgot. The most extensive (un) coverage of women in SI is the annual swimsuit issue. It is a shame that SI respects its largely male audience so little that it serves up the kind of testosterone fueled claptrap in this column. Men who only appreciate a game if the athletes have penises, as is apparently true of Mr. Mohr, are missing a lot. Even more, I worry about their daughters who might want to be athletes.

The women who play in the WNBA are superb athletes who deserve respect not derision from jock-sniffers like Mohr. The truth is, even Mohr acknowledges, that these women are far better athletes than he can even dream of being. Most women athletes, especially on team sports, persevere despite obstacles that far less talented male athletes never encounter. They succeed despite sports boobs like Mohr who can only appreciate female athletic performance in the bedroom (or in their own pea-brained fantasies).

Rather than appreciating how much women’s basketball has grown or how quickly the game has gotten faster, bigger, more athletic because of the fairly recent opportunities afforded by Title IX, Mohr takes cheap shots at the players and the fans. How insightful.

Mohr’s homophobia is so extreme that he really should consider seeking professional help. He pulls out all the old lesbian stereotypes to describe the fans – big, mean, hostile to men, boot-wearing “brutes” who leer at the players and scare the bejabbers out of the few men in attendance. It’s funny how homophobia warps perception. I am not sure what WNBA game he attended, but the fans at the games I’ve attended are a great mix of little girls and boys, families of all kinds and colors, retirees, and, yes, lesbians. No one at these games seems fazed in the least by the fact that they might be different from the person sitting next to them. They unite around the team. They high-five each other and pass the popcorn around. This is one of the cool things about the WNBA.

You want to talk about scary, Mr. Mohr? The beer-swilling, obscenity-shouting, boorish, shirtless guys at every men’s professional sports events are a lot more scary and offensive than some lesbians in flannel shirts.

Finally, the comment that baffles me the most: the ticket prices. Ticket prices for men’s professional games are so out of control that most families can’t afford to go. I’ve always appreciated that WNBA tickets are within the reach of most of us who are not celebrities and CEOs. I see that as a good thing. So many young girl and boys get to see these amazing women athletes play because families don’t have to choose between forfeiting the college tuition fund and attending a professional sport contest.

Maybe all of the fans at WNBA games will learn that sitting next to lesbians, talking to them, cheering with them is not really so scary after all. And maybe, just maybe, those little boys watching WNBA games will grow up with a little more respect for women, on and off the playing field, than you have, Mr. Mohr.

Pat Griffin played basketball and field hockey at the University of Maryland and coached at the high school level. She is also a prolific author on issues of sexism and homophobia in sports. Griffin is a professor in Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research and writing interests focus on heterosexism and homophobia in education, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender teachers and students, and heterosexism and homophobia in athletics, with a particular interest in women’s sports.