Sue Wicks's Forward Behavior

The New York Liberty Vet Talks Dollars, Planes, and Lesbians

Though Wicks yearns for more time with friends and family, her teammates are not ready for her talk of retirement. Floor captain Teresa Weatherspoon—the squad's only other player who's the same age—has reassigned Wicks's initials to "Super Warrior" and lauds the innumerable intangibles she contributes, both on and off the court. The newer players, too, count on Wicks as a pillar of positivity. Tari Phillips credits Wicks's constant encouragement for helping her transition to New York, and rising star Becky Hammon says that Wicks's wacky jokes are a big part of the team's famous glue. (She declined to repeat any of them, "in order to protect Sue's reputation in the media.")

For her own part, Wicks still sees a wider role for herself in the league at large: She'd like to participate in next year's round of collective bargaining. One of the most levelheaded and forthright players, she wants to see the WNBA pony up better salaries. "It's great that they're promoting us as poster-people for women's empowerment," she says, "but then you've got to live up to that principle and pay us as well as the men. Not the same dollar amounts—in fact, I think a lot of men lose sight of love for the game because money is such a distraction. But the same in terms of percentage of revenues, of our revenues."

After a crunched season of back-to-back away games, Wicks would also insist that the league lease some private jets. "I can't understand it," she says. "We can't sleep, we're eating airport food, we're getting injured, and so sometimes we're playing crappy. Why do they want to put games like that on TV when they're trying to promote the sport?"

Wicks, No. 23, taking care of some insider elbow trading
photo: Pete Kuhns
Wicks, No. 23, taking care of some insider elbow trading

And while she doesn't see it as an area for contract negotiations—or one with much hope of change anytime soon—Wicks is one of the few players willing to discuss the league's squeamishness about lesbians. "I can't say how many players are gay," notes Wicks, "but it would be easier to count the straight ones." She finds it "annoying" that the league almost exclusively promotes those who are moms. "I like it when they give insight into athletes, and I think it's great when they say, 'Here's a player and her husband and baby.' But I'd love to see a couple of women profiled, too, especially if they had a great, solid relationship, just to show that in a positive light." On the other hand, Wicks is quick to add, "America probably isn't ready. Not every place is New York and San Francisco, and you can't sell people something they don't want to buy. Not to say that gay people aren't everywhere, and definitely we don't cater to those fans enough, but a lot of sports people just don't want to know."

On the court, none of that matters, says Wicks, and neither does race. "Of course there's racism in sports, as there is in the rest of society," she says. "But when you're playing, it's your character that's on the floor. Between the players, that's what counts." One newcomer did infuriate her once by calling her "a token white player," but Wicks chalks that up more to youthful trash-talking against the elders than a comment on race relations within the league.

In fact, much of the league dynamic, now that it's completing its fourth year, is of young whippersnappers jockeying to push older superstars out of the way. "They just don't have the awe and respect players my age have for those who had the dedication to play overseas, with no one seeing them, no articles in the paper, just for their own satisfaction. The young ones see Cynthia Cooper there, and all they're thinking about is knocking her out of the way." Wicks talks with more wistfulness than scorn. "It's great, of course. They have to do it." But they'll eventually also have to learn what Wicks can do so well: the little unnoticed jobs that just need doing.

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