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Candice Wiggins: 'Toxic' WNBA is '98 percent' gay

By Alex Butler
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Candice Wiggins: 'Toxic' WNBA is '98 percent' gay
(L-R) USA's Eriana Larkins, Candice Wiggins and Marissa Coleman leap off the bench in celebration as time runs out for Brazil in the women's basketball final during the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 24, 2007. USA won gold with a score of 79-66. (UPI Photo/Heinz Ruckemann) | License Photo

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- She retired in 2015, but her time in the WNBA will stay with her for a lifetime.

Candice Wiggins is speaking out about her time in the league, which led to a championship in 2011 with the Minnesota Lynx. Wiggins said she would have played a few more years in the league if it weren't for the way the league affected her "mental state."

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"I wanted to play two more seasons of WNBA, but the experience didn't lend itself to my mental state," Wiggins told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It was a depressing state in the WNBA. It's not watched. Our value is diminished. It can be quite hard. I didn't like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me. ... My spirit was being broken."

Wiggins was the no. 3 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft. She moved on from Stanford to become the WNBA's Sixth Woman of the Year as a rookie.

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She said she was "bullied" during her eight year career, according to the report. The 30-year-old played for four WNBA franchises. She announced her retirement in an article for the Players' Tribune.

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"I've found that, sometimes, the greatest things happen after you say goodbye," Wiggins wrote in the article.

Wiggins said she was singled out for being heterosexual.

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"Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge," Wiggins told the Union Tribune. "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."

She said other players were "deliberately" trying to hurt her and called her expletives regularly.

"The message was: 'We want you to know we don't like you,'" Wiggins said.

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While several WNBA stars, past and present, have come out through the years, there has been no published data on the amount of gay players in the league.

The top WNBA salary is set at $109,000, while average salaries come in at $75,000.

In 2014, the WNBA became the first professional sports league in the United States to recruit LGBTQ fans by selling rainbow basketball pride T-shirts, launching a dedicated marketing platform, and sponsoring pride games around the country.

WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes became the most recognizable athlete in a team sport to come out, when she revealed she was gay in 2005 in an interview with ESPN.

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"The WNBA is honored to have such a loyal group of fans," WNBA President Lisa Borders told WNBA.com. "Our fans are proud of their teams, favorite players and themselves, and with Aquafina as the presenting partner of WNBA Pride, we have the opportunity to celebrate the league's diverse community and promote inclusion and respect during our landmark 20th season."

Several WNBA players have since spoken in opposition to Wiggins' comments. Wiggins stopped playing in the WNBA after her 2015 season with the New York Liberty. There are currently 144 players in the NBA. If Wiggins' estimate is correct, that would mean there are only two straight women in the league.

Wiggins spoke out in favor of the Sky's Pride Night in 2015.

"Taking this stance, it is really nice," Wiggins told ESPN at the time. "It's good to open up the conversation, to get people more comfortable with things that maybe before they didn't identify with. I was just talking about it to one of my teammates, 'What if the NBA got into having a Pride Night? I wonder what it would be like.' But I think we're setting a great example."

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Wiggins averaged 8.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game during her career.

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