Elena Delle Donne, a star with the WNBA's Chicago Sky and a member of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team in Rio, has come out publicly in a profile with Vogue as being in a same-sex relationship.
The article, which is not online but which was referred to me by Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune, states: "Elena divides her time between traveling with her team, the Chicago Sky, and her family’s home in the rolling green landscape of Wilmington, Delaware. She and her fiancee, Amanda Clifton, keep apartments in both Chicago and Wilmington."
That's it. Simple and sweet. Delle Donne, 26, has voiced support for lesbian players in basketball such as Brittney Griner, but this is her first public declaration that she is in same-sex relationship. The article does not spell out exactly what her sexual orientation is. Delle Donne and Clifton, though, are not shy about sharing photos of each other on Instagram:
Thompson noted in the Chicago Tribune that "in a teaser video posted to USA Basketball's Facebook page Tuesday, Delle Donne flashes a ring on her wedding hand as she folds her arms and stands in front of an American flag."
When Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Hine caught up with Delle Donne in Rio after the news of her engagement spread, she said: "I decided I'm not at all going to hide anything. The biggest thing is respecting Amanda's privacy as well. She's not on the stage, she doesn't need to be interviewed and I don't want her to have to feel that way. ... It's not a coming out article or anything. I've been with her for a very long time now and people who are close to me know that and that's that."
Delle Donne is a star, the second pick in the 2013 WNBA draft behind Griner and last season's league MVP, yet I imagine most people will yawn at the news. Out female athletes have never gotten the same amount of attention as a man, for various sociological reasons. Imagine the news avalanche had the first two picks in an NBA draft both been gay. Megan Greenwell, an ESPN editor, was perhaps prescient when she said this to N.Y. Magazine after Griner came out in 2013:
Contrast Griner with the No. 2 WNBA draft pick this year, Elena Delle Donne: "She's super-blonde, super-thin, does not look like a classic image of a female athlete," Greenwell says. "If Elena Delle Donne was the one who said, ‘I'm gay,' I think that would have blown people's minds. I mean, Elena Delle Donne wore basically a cocktail dress to the WNBA draft. Brittney Griner wore a white suit chosen for her by Ellen Degeneres's stylist."
Regardless, it's awesome that Delle Donne went public about her relationship and she will be an inspiration to other athletes considering whether it's possible to be in a same-sex relationship and a high-profile player.
Note: This post was updated to reflect that Delle Donne never specifically spelled out her sexual orientation.