Sheryl Swoopes comes out: 'I'm finally OK with the idea of who I love'
HOUSTON -- The only thing that outshines the exquisite diamond on Sheryl Swoopes' left ring finger is the glow on her face as she discusses the love of her life.
It's a love that the women's basketball superstar has kept hidden for more than seven years. On Wednesday, this year's WNBA most valuable player said she "quit pretending," disclosing that she is gay and in a committed relationship.
"I feel like I've been living a lie," the Houston Comets forward said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm at a place in my life right now where I'm very happy, very content. I'm finally OK with the idea of who I love, who I want to be with."
Swoopes said she currently lives with her partner, former Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott.
The story was first reported in ESPN the Magazine, which hit newsstands Wednesday. She also announced an endorsement deal with Olivia, a lesbian cruise line that already has deals with tennis star Martina Navratilova and golfer Rosie Jones.
Swoopes, the only WNBA player to win three MVP trophies, said she never had feelings for a woman before Scott and didn't understand them when they began. But in the seven years since, she said she's been "hurting" while hiding her relationship.
Swoopes was married to her high school sweetheart Eric Jackson and the two have an 8-year-old son, Jordan. When contemplating whether to come out, Swoopes said thoughts of Jordan were foremost in her mind.
"He goes to bed every night and he's peaceful and when I see that I never question that what I'm doing is right," she said.
Jackson released a statement Wednesday night through his lawyer.
"I respectfully request for everyone to remember that behind this story there is an 8-year-old child who will undoubtedly receive attention because of his mother's pronouncement regarding her lifestyle," Jackson said.
"Our son's well-being is my sole focus. I am completely committed to doing what is in the best interest of our child," Jackson said.
Swoopes is a five-time All-Star, three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion as a member of the Comets, whose run of four straight titles began when she was a rookie in 1997.
While piling up accolades and accomplishments, the 34-year-old Swoopes said she dreamed about the day when she could attend an awards banquet with Scott on her arm.
"We have had to celebrate behind closed doors," she said. "I don't want to have to hide from the world anymore."
But that's not to say that she isn't concerned about repercussions from her admission. She worries about her mother Louise, who has known for five years, but "doesn't think it's right."
"She'll probably never accept it," Swoopes said. "But she's dealing with it."
Swoopes is perhaps the highest profile team-sport athlete to come out and follows two other WNBA players. She said her news had been well received so far.
"What she does in her personal life is her own decision," Comets coach Van Chancellor said in a release. "I respect everything about Sheryl, how she's handled herself on and off the court. To me, she will always be one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of women's basketball."
She has long reveled in her position as a role model and hopes that parents won't discourage their children from looking up to her because she is gay. Her wish is that her coming out could help someone dealing with the same issue.
"If a kid out there who is struggling with their identity can read this article and say, 'If she did it I can deal with this,' then this is worth it," she said.
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Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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