ARLINGTON, Texas — The WNBA continues to show its commitment to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, inclusivity and community involvement -- the epitome of what was felt attending “Pride Night” at College Park Center Saturday, as the Dallas Wings faced the Phoenix Mercury.
On the heels of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Wings organization released the following statement on Instagram Friday:
"Our organization believes women should be able to make their own personal decisions regarding their health and those freedoms should always be protected. We will continue to advocate for health equity while acknowledging reproductive rights are human rights that should be afforded to all."
The very next day, the Wings were set to take the court in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, with its now annual "Pride Night."
In June 2014, the WNBA became the first professional sports league to establish a dedicated Pride campaign -- leading to "WNBA Pride." It now includes participation by all 12 of the league's teams, though some teams have been recognizing Pride month individually for years.
Saturday night, fans showed up to not only support the Wings, but each other.
The doors opened at 6 p.m. and the first 3,000 attendees received a ‘PRIDE clapper’ to enjoy the game and show their spirit as the Wings took flight. And those clappers rocked the arena.
With lights lowered and Wings mascot Lightning waving the team's flag, the starting five took to the court with loud cheers from the crowd.
Now, if you’re a fan of basketball and have been to a game – you have to know rule number one: When tip-off commences, you stand until your team makes a shot. At 8:04 minute mark, Wings guard Marina Mabrey put in a layup.
After the first quarter, the Wings were up by 10, leading the Mercury 23-13. And the room was electric.
By halftime, with the Wings only ahead by 1, the cheers elevated the atmosphere as both teams left the court.
And in the moments during the break – there was ample entertainment, including messages in support of LGBTQ rights, history and organizations gifted with donations.
When the second half of the game began, fans continued to crank up the volume, especially when crowd-favorite Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale got the ball in her hands.
As the game continued to be a contentious battle back and forth, including a few technical fouls, levity was brought to the arena when the "Loud and Proud" cam scanned the crowd.
But then, Mercury's Skyler Diggins-Smith helped cap a 13-2 run to put her team up 64-61 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
There were four lead changes in the game, two ties and the Wings led by as many as 12 points in the contest.
And going into the 4th, fans were at their loudest chanting “Let’s Go Wings!”
Down by 5 with 3:09 to go -- fans remained relentless in getting their Wings motivated. No pressure!
But with only a minute left in the game, the fans realized the Wings weren't going to fly to a win. The Wings lost to the Mercury, 72-83.
Yet, the passionate cheers prevailed.
There were still accomplishments on the night that deserved praise -- Ogunbowale netted a team-high 25 points, her 11th game this season with 20 or more points, and dished out six assists. Forward Isabelle Harrison joined her in double-figures, scoring 15 of her own and leading the team with 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
And many stayed behind to cheer on the team in a tough loss.
From someone who loves the game of basketball, what was the atmosphere on the night like? Energetic, passionate and, most importantly, loud.
The overall message to takeaway from a night out with the Wings fans? It was read on the screen above the court for all to see during a break: "You're always safe here."
The Wings are now 9-10 on the season and remain the No. 3 team in the Western Conference.
The Wings will face off against the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday, June 28, at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. CT.
If you would like to join in on the fun and attend a Dallas Wings game, click here for more information on the team and tickets.