Mystics Give Big Issue the Kiss-Off

"We got a lot of kids here," Sheila Johnson, the Mystics' managing partner, said, when asked about the KissCam. "We just don't find it appropriate."
"We got a lot of kids here," Sheila Johnson, the Mystics' managing partner, said, when asked about the KissCam. "We just don't find it appropriate." (By Michael Cohen -- Getty Images)

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By Mike Wise
Monday, July 27, 2009

"Why don't they have a KissCam at Mystics games?" a young friend asked last week, which preceded an awkward pause and an even more awkward answer.

Really, why doesn't the inclusive WNBA franchise in the nation's capital, of all places, send their video cameramen and camerawomen to find unsuspecting couples in the stands during timeouts and capture their mugs for all of Verizon Center's crowd to see? And wait for the couple's reaction, which usually involves a polite, if awkward, peck on the lips.

Just like they do at NBA games and other sporting events in which the participants are men.

"We got a lot of kids here," Sheila Johnson, the Mystics' managing partner, said when asked last week at a game. "We just don't find it appropriate."

Understood is that women's professional basketball has two major fan bases: dads and daughters, and lesbians. The KissCam issue, frivolous on its surface, puts the effort to cater to both audiences squarely at odds.

Devon Goldsmith, returning to her seat for last Thursday's game between Washington and Chicago, understands Johnson's rationale -- begrudgingly.

"It's one thing for Daddy and Mommy to be kissing, but Mommy kissing Mommy?" said Goldsmith, a 26-year-old systems analyst from Silver Spring. She also happens to play linebacker for the D.C. Divas semipro women's football team and is openly gay. "I don't think people are ready for it now.

"I can see people at the box office, saying, 'I want my money back.' You don't want to curb the fan base by giving something they're not ready for."

This is a seminal, scary time for women's professional sports. Ten years after Brandi Chastain's ab-crunching moment in the women's World Cup ushered in a new era of empowerment, less than half of the LPGA Tour's 29 events have secured sponsorship for next year. Though attendance numbers are up in Washington, the league can barely pull in an average of 8,000 people per game and many of its arenas hold 20,000.

It's understandable that a financially shaky league is outright terrified it could alienate a chunk of its fan base if two same-sex people shared a chaste kiss on a video scoreboard.

Hello, gay and lesbian jokes. Goodbye, heterosexual family ticket plans. Goodbye, progress.

We get it.


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