Erlana Larkins, Indiana Fever Star, Joins Athlete Ally

Erlana Larkins in her college days, playing for University of North Carolina.  Photo by kevin813.  License information here.

Athlete Ally’s presence in the WNBA continues to grow, with Indiana Fever forward Erlana Larkins joining Fever teammate Karima Christmas and current players Kristi Tolliver (Los Angeles Sparks), Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm), Sharnee Zoll-Norman (Chicago Sky) and Jayne Appel (San Antonio Stars) as the sixth WNBA Ambassador to promote respect and equality throughout the league.

Larkins’ Ambassadorship comes as the WNBA breaks new ground by becoming the first professional sports league to specifically market its brand to the LGBT community.  The WNBA’s Pride initiative, presented by COVERGIRL, celebrates inclusion and equality in sport.  Athlete Ally is among the leading advocacy groups supporting the WNBA with this first-of-its-kind campaign.

“It makes me feel good knowing that the league is helping support equality and inclusion for the LGBT community,” Larkins said.

“The WNBA welcomes all fans, athletes, and partners to our game,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie, in a statement.  “These beliefs unite the 12 teams of the WNBA and we are very excited to introduce the WNBA Pride platform which celebrates acceptance and inclusion.”

Larkins attended the University of North Carolina, where she made her mark as the school’s all-time leading scorer with over 3,000 career points.  She was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, starting her professional career with the New York Liberty.  After two years out of the league, Larkins was signed by the Fever in 2012, putting up historic rebound numbers in the post-season and helping the team win its first WNBA championship that year.

Below, Erlana spoke with Athlete Ally Program Coordinator Brian Healey about joining the cause.

Q: What made you decide to support LGBT equality as an Ambassador for Athlete Ally?

A: I believe that supporting LGBT equality is incredibly important when you are in a position like I am.  An opportunity to have a voice and a platform to support a community that I am a part of is natural to me.  I also really believe in the mission of Athlete Ally and am excited and honored to do my part with this organization.

Q: Why do you think more and more athletes, including WNBA players, are taking the time to speak out in support of LGBT inclusion in athletics?

A: I think that it’s becoming a part of our society today to speak out and make your voice count for something.  I think it’s important, especially as a female professional athlete, to be open and encourage people to break barriers, stereotypes, and inequalities against inclusion for all.

Q: In your opinion, why aren’t female LGBT athletes talked about as much when they come out, as compared to male athletes?

A: Sadly, I think it’s more of a stereotype applied to female athletes that they are already a part of that community, and that stereotype is not true.

Q: What more do you think the world of professional sports can do as a community to support LGBT inclusion in sport?

A: I think that the WNBA has been making strides toward more support for LGBT inclusion.  I hope that trend continues throughout all sport leagues because I feel like it’s just the right thing to do. I know there has been more visibility with some brave athletes coming out.  I hope that these professional sport leagues, as well as collegiate ones, seize the opportunity to embrace the LGBT community one athlete at a time.

Q: What’s your favorite part of being on a WNBA team?

A: I love being a part of the WNBA and playing for the Indiana Fever. My team won a championship together in 2012, and that shared level of commitment and respect among my teammates is something that will bind us for life.

Q:  What else should members of the Athlete Ally community know about you?

A: I have considered myself an underdog, but I fight hard for what I am passionate about, and basketball is my life’s passion. I am completely comfortable in my skin and I am extremely passionate about the opportunity to lend my voice to help someone else find the level of peace within themselves that I have. I truly want equality for all.