The Warriors earned their first win of the season on their recently-completed two-game road trip, and now return to the Bay Area for four consecutive home games, beginning Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns. That game falls on LGBTQ Night at Chase Center, an annual Warriors tradition. But this time, it's different, due to the star power that will be a major part of it.
The two women the San Francisco Chronicle's Ann Killion referred to as the "most accomplished sports couple in the world," -- Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird -- will be honored at Wednesday's game and take part in a panel discussion afterward.
"Oh, sure, we always sit around and say we’re the most powerful sports couple in the world," Rapinoe joked to Killion in a phone conversation.
That moniker didn't arise out of thin air. Bird, 38, is one of the most accomplished women's basketball players of all-time, she of the three WNBA titles, four Olympic gold medals, four FIBA World Cup championships and two NCAA titles. Rapinoe, 34, just starred on a global scale as the FIFA women's player of the year in helping the U.S. women's national team claim its second straight World Cup title.
"You could argue that she’s one of the most influential athletes in the world," Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts said of Rapinoe, who will also be a part of the postgame panel. In 2011, he became the first male executive in the four major sports to come out as gay.
"It’s important that we do it," Welts said of LGBTQ Night, "but in some ways it’s not as big a deal, because of the historic nature of San Francisco in the gay rights movement and our community."
While Rapinoe, a Redding native, agrees that San Francisco is generally ahead of the game when it comes to LGBTQ awareness, she sees the sports world as operating separately, particularly for men.
"The general vibe of San Francisco is progressive, but sports environments are a little society of their own,” Rapinoe said. “For women’s sports, out LGBTQ athletes are nothing new. But men’s sports are very far behind. There’s a lot of work to be done.
"We can set a precedent and set a space and make it feel safe for when men do come out. My guess is that they don’t feel safe, so they’re not willing to take the risk."
Between Bird, Rapinoe and Welts, it's difficult to think of three better people to lead that discussion.