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Natalie Williams is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer.
She’s an Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup Champion.
She’s a Pac-10 Player of the Year, ABL MVP and four-time WNBA All-Star.
Oh, and in her first season as General Manager of the Las Vegas Aces, the team won the WNBA title.
She is also a member of the LGBTQ community, something she hasn’t exactly publicized over the years. With a wife and six kids, she hasn’t hidden her sexual orientation either.
“I’ve always been the kind of person — I’m from Salt Lake City — it’s something you don’t announce, but I think everyone knows,” she told Outsports. “On Facebook I have my wife, and we have six kids.
“The perspective I’ve always had is that I don’t need to hide it or need to announce it publicly.”
Yet even when she was a player in the league 20 years ago, she had a partner and kids who came around the Utah Starzz and Indiana Fever.
“It was a really cool environment for them to grow up around,” she said of her kids.
Now moving from Utah to Las Vegas, her wife has given up her job to follow Williams’ Aces opportunity.
“Its been quite a change to give up everything and move everyone to support me. It’s been a crazy year.”
That crazy year has included a WNBA Championship. That’s in conjunction with two other women with the Aces — head coach Becky Hammon and Chief Business Development Officer Jennifer Azzi — who are also included on the Outsports Power 100.
The Aces are again poised to make a serious run in the WNBA Playoffs, currently with the best record in the league.
Still, the move for Williams and her family hasn’t come without sacrifice.
From coaching to the front office
Williams was coaching basketball in Salt Lake City when the call came to join the Aces. Williams is passionate about helping youth in particular, and moving away from coaching meant giving up part of that, including her successful Natalie Williams Basketball Academy.
“It was a pretty big business, and it was a challenge for me to give that up and one I didn’t want to give up. I definitely miss coaching the youth. It was an incredible joy for sure.”
Now with the Aces, Williams relishes in the pro-LGBTQ environment she has found, including the team’s Pride Night that drew one of the team’s biggest crowds of the season.
“It was great to see the KissCam on the Jumbotron,” Williams said. “My daughters are raised knowing they have two moms. They tell people that. They’re not embarrassed about it. That’s how we raise them. They’re very confident, powerful teenagers.
“I just think it was great for our community here in Las Vegas to see that was one of our most successful nights.”
Inspiring LGBTQ youth
Now Williams is hoping more people across the WNBA will reach out to youth, work with them, talk with them, and make sure that anyone who is LGBTQ feels loved and accepted for who they are.
With at least a fifth of the players in the league out as LGBTQ people, there is plenty of opportunity.
“The biggest thing for me is that people like myself, and anyone in the WNBA, finds an avenue to somehow, with all of these amazing players in the league who are part of the community, reaches out to the youth who are struggling.”
Having coached in Salt Lake City, she said the families she worked with couldn’t have been more kind.
Yet also, living and working in Utah — where the LDS Church has over the years been at times anti-LGBTQ — opened Williams’ eyes to the increasing need for visibility of LGBTQ people.
“If the WNBA and other power sports communities can come out and let the kids know they’re valued and accepted and fine whoever they are, that’s important to those kids trying to find a way in this world.”