Reigning WNBA MVP and U.S. Olympian Elena Delle Donne quietly came out last month when a profile published by Vogue casually mentioned her fiancee.
“Elena divides her time between traveling with her team, the Chicago Sky, and her family’s home in the rolling green landscape of Wilmington, Delaware. She and her fiancee, Amanda Clifton, keep apartments in both Chicago and Wilmington,” the article published in Vogue’s August issue read, according to Outsports.com.
The tidbit from the story only went viral on Wednesday, however, when Chicago Tribune reporters Chris Hine and Phil Thompson realized it was the first time the Chicago Sky star publicly acknowledged her love interest was a woman.
When asked about it on Wednesday in Rio, Delle Donne said she decided not to “hide anything” from Vogue because of the nature of the profile.
“It was just one of those articles where they came into my home, spent a couple days with me and Amanda is a huge part of my life,” Delle Donne said (via the Tribune). “So to leave her out wouldn’t have made any sense.”
She added: “It’s not a coming out article or anything. I’ve been with her for a very long time now and people who are close to me know that and that’s that.”
And that’s where the 26-year-old player is happy to leave it, not only because she doesn’t feel the need to be more vocal about her sexual orientation, but because she wants to protect her fiancee from public scrutiny.
“The biggest thing is respecting Amanda’s privacy…,” she said (via the Tribune). “She’s not on the stage, she doesn’t need to be interviewed and I don’t want her to have to feel that way.
“As the future keeps moving on, I don’t plan on having our relationship out in the public and all this media on it, but obviously there’s excitement right now because people see it for the first time.”
Delle Donne might not think her coming out is a big deal, but the co-founder of Outsports.com, which chronicles the intersection between sports and the LGBTQ community, sure does.
“She’s a major star and she’s going to be on the Olympic team and she’s open about her sexual orientation; she’s with a woman,” Jim Buzinski told the Tribune. “To me that’s a wonderful bit of news because it’s still rare, even in women’s sports, to find that.”
Delle Donne joins a growing list of Olympians who have come out. In fact, a total of 41 athletes competing at the Rio Olympics have come out as gay and lesbian, according to the Human Rights Campaign. That’s a record number. Along with Delle Donne, her Team USA women’s basketball teammates Brittney Griner, Angel McCoughtry and Seimone Augustus have all come out. Other openly gay U.S. Olympians include rugby players Kelly Griffin and Jillion Potter, kayaker Ashley Nee and soccer star Megan Rapinoe. There are no openly gay American male athletes competing at the Rio Games, according to HRC.