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October 26th, 2005:

Sheryl Swoopes comes out

Houston Comets star Sheryl Swoopes has outed herself in a magazine article.

“My reason for coming out isn’t to be some sort of hero,” Swoopes said in an interview that appears in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine. “I’m just at a point in my life where I’m tired of having to pretend to be somebody I’m not.

“I’m tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love. Male athletes of my caliber probably feel like they have a lot more to lose than gain (by coming out). I don’t agree with that. To me, the most important thing is happiness.”

In the ESPN magazine article, Swoopes said she has been involved in a same-sex relationship with former Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott since shortly after divorcing Eric Jackson, her high-school sweetheart and husband of three years, in 1999.

According to the ESPN article, the 34-year-old Swoopes is the most recognizable athlete, male or female, to come out in a team sport. In September, Swoopes became the first WNBA player to be named MVP for a third time.

According to this AP wire story, Swoopes has denied that being gay was the reason for the breakup of her marriage. Though she certainly is the highest-profile team sport player to come out, she’s not the first such WNBA player; to the best of my knowledge, that would be former New York Liberty center Sue Wicks.

Comets coach Van Chancellor said he had been aware of Swoopes’ impending announcement for several days. He refused to comment or speculate about how the announcement might affect Swoopes’ future in the WNBA.

“I’ve coached Swoopes for nine years for the Houston Comets as well as with the (USA Basketball) national team,” Chancellor said. “What she does in her personal life is her own decision.

“I respect everything about Sheryl, how she’s handled herself on and off the court. To me, she will always be one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of women’s basketball and as a person has helped me win four (WNBA) championships and two gold medals.”

Speaking as a five-year Comets season-ticket holder, I predict Swoopes will get a big ovation the first time she steps on the court next year. The fans love her, and I just don’t see too many of them objecting to this. And yes, the gay and lesbian community of Houston makes up a sizeable portion of the Comets’ fan base. She’ll do just fine here.

An interesting question will be how her revelation will affect any endorsement deals she currently has.

She was named [NCAA] National Player of the Year [in 1993] and became the first female to have a basketball sneaker manufactured (by Nike) under her autograph.

The things that made Sheryl Swoopes attractive to advertisers before she came out are still true today: Great athlete, respected by all in the game, star-power personality, and good looking to boot. I don’t know what kind of endorsements she’s doing these days, but I’ll be very interested to see if any companies drop her. She’s apparently added at least one new deal, a lesbian cruise line (whose name makes me chuckle), according to Women’s Hoops.

Mechelle Voepel has a long and thoughtful piece about what Swoopes’ announcement may mean for other, currently closeted, athletes and coaches. The whole thing is worth your time to read, but I found this at the end to be especially poignant:

[T]here is the question of how Swoopes’ story will be received in Lubbock, Texas, home of Texas Tech and some of the most loyal and knowledgeable women’s basketball fans in the world. It’s just as dumb to suggest that everyone in Lubbock has a problem with homosexuality as it is to say that everyone in New York City has no problem with it. However, Lubbock is a place one would describe as conservative, to use, admittedly, a stereotype.

Swoopes is a legend in Lubbock more than anywhere else; she brought the university national recognition and always will be one of the most important people in the school’s history. Texas Tech fans genuinely love her, though some will feel very conflicted about her story.

But I think most of them, even if they don’t understand or totally accept Swoopes’ story, are people who believe we should live and let live. They might still vote for any and all measures to ban gay marriage, but they’d give Swoopes a sincere hug if they saw her.

I’ve got no business turning Sheryl Swoopes into a rallying point for a political movement. I do hope, however, that a few of the people who love her for what she did for Texas Tech in 1993 will be thinking about her as they step into the voting booth next month.

A committee of one

Hey, remember that blue ribbon panel that Governor Perry announced last month to figure out what to do with school finance? It’s been five weeks since John Sharp was named its chair, and he’s hard at work talking to editorial boards around the state. What is it that he isn’t doing? Holding meetings with the other members of the panel. And why is that?

Sharp, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, emphasized that he wasn’t yet speaking for the committee, whose other members still haven’t been named but may be announced this week by the governor.

Well, that would be an impediment, though on the bright side it ought to make booking a meeting room easier. One does wonder why Sharp is so lonely these days, since it’s not like Governor Perry hasn’t had time to do other stuff.

Since Rick Perry has named John Sharp to the school tax panel, he’s made a ton of other appointments:

  • He’s appointed 7 members to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy.
  • He’s appointed 5 people to the Texas Medical Board.
  • He’s appointed 2 people to the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation.
  • And he’s appointed people to the Texas Growth Fund Board of Directors, the 11th Court of Appeals, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Texas Small Business Industrial Development Corporation, and the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

Ah, it’s just school finance. No big deal. And you know, I remember a Dilbert cartoon in which Scott Adams postulated that the collective IQ of any committee drops five points for each additional member. So maybe I’m just not thinking outside the box here.

Sharp said the committee, which will include about 12 members, both Republicans and Democrats, and mostly from the business community, won’t try to write a new school finance plan or tell the Legislature how much to spend on education.

Oh, well.

A little piling on Kay

Another month, another fifty-state report by SurveyUSA on Senator popularity. Our senior member stays in the top half of the Senate with a 58% approve/35% disapprove tally. You can see her tracking numbers here, where the most notable thing is a slow but steady climb in her negatives, and the population splits here. Note that she’s a fair amount more popular than John Cornyn, and notice also that both of them are in negative territory among Hispanics. Just a guess here, but I’d say that KBH’s recent silliness on immigration has taken a toll on her, with perhaps a spillover effect onto Cornyn, who has publicly distanced himself from her idea of using local police as volunteer immigration enforcement.

On that score, it’s a few days old, but this op-ed in the Marshall News Messenger is pretty cutting.

While we agree with most of what Sen. Hutchison proposes, this is one of those ideas that sounds good, but is actually terrible.

We hope she takes a second look at the pitfalls and decides to pull it back for further review. Then maybe it will get lost in a desk drawer.

[…]

[O]ur police are busy enough. Period. While we acknowledge that there are not enough INS agents to keep out the flood of illegal aliens, asking already over-worked police officers to do the job isn’t the answer.

Not only that, but it heaps the cost of such enforcement on local governments. Much of this cost would be “unseen,” but it would still be there.

When an officer is doing the work of the INS, he isn’t doing the work of guarding against crime that endangers our citizens.

[…]

Then there is the question of just where the illegal aliens would be kept while we are waiting for them to be picked up by INS.

If every police force in the nation were to begin arresting these people, the back-up would be tremendous.

We could wind up holding deportees for days, weeks or even months before they were taken from us. And just who would pay for those medical bills while in our custody?

It is possible that the INS would reimburse the counties for holding the prisoners (we wouldn’t suggest counting on that), but that would not help us in Harrison County where our jail is already so overcrowded that we have to send our prisoners elsewhere.

This is a bad bill that many will support for emotional and pure political reasons, but when logic is applied, it simply doesn’t make any sense. It should be disposed of as quickly as possible.

Via the ACLU Liberty blog and Grits.

She also gets deservedly slapped around by the Chron for her idiotic perjury isn’t really a crime remarks.

One cannot pick and choose when a charge is justified. Lying to investigators and grand juries is not a technicality. Our system of law depends on the ability of law enforcement to get at the truth, both in interviews with investigators and in sworn testimony in court. The penalties can be personally devastating and often do not hinge on other crimes. Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros continues to be dogged by a decade-long investigation set off by his admitted lies to FBI agents vetting him for a Cabinet post about how much money he had paid a former mistress, an act that was not a crime.

If Hutchison found perjury and obstruction reason enough to throw a president out of office, surely those offenses would be sufficient cause to charge people if they obstructed a probe of a potential violation of national security laws. The unmasking of a covert CIA operative can have life and death consequences for previous associates met over the years in countries around the world.

Public officials such as Sen. Hutchison do not enhance their stature when they seem to support one standard of justice for officials of the opposing party and another for their own. What was good for the Democratic goose in the Clinton impeachment trial should be good enough for the Republican gander in the Plame investigation.

And today the Express News joins in.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, speaking Sunday on “Meet the Press,” appeared to offer a preview of administration strategy if indictments come.

She said, “I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment … that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality.”

That is extremely disappointing coming from Hutchison because perjury is not a technicality. It is lying under oath.

It also sharply varies from her comments in 1999 when the topic concerned perjury and testimony by then-President Bill Clinton.

According to the Washington Post, she said, “I don’t want there to be any lessening of the standard (regarding obstruction of justice and perjury). Because our system of criminal justice depends on people telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Hutchison was right then. She is wrong now.

Nice to know that some people haven’t forgotten all the high dudgeon they got themselves into back in the late 90s.

I sometimes think that the main reason Kay Bailey Hutchison is so widely considered to be a popular moderate is because for the first eight years of her career she had Phil Gramm out in front of her hogging up all the spotlight. The more we see, the less there is to like.

Two side notes to mention: Eye on Williamson on how KBH gets treated differently in the media, and a little press coverage on Barbara Radnofsky, who critiques KBH’s immigration plan.

Endorsement watch: Is that all there is?

For the second consecutive day, there are no endorsements in the Chron’s op-ed pages (though there is the anticipated Rosa Parks obituary), which leads me to wonder if they’ve done all the endorsing they plan to do. Why that would be, and why they’ve skipped these particular races and propositions, are mysteries to me.

For example, the Express News has offered a recommendation on all nine propositions – you can see seven of them here, with the two others here and here. The Morning News has a concise summary of all of its recommendations here. The Statesman did an all-in-one piece almost two weeks ago. That’s not so hard, is it? I mean, sure, there’s city elections in Houston and not in these other places, but Dallas has over a dozen city propositions on its ballot, and the DMN has reviewed all of them by now. So where is the Chronicle?

Well, at least we’re still getting race coverage. Today’s piece is on the two contested HISD trustee races, one of which will be on my ballot.

Trustee Karla Cisneros’ decision not to seek re-election in District 1 set up the three-way match for her seat, and the outcome could change the board’s ethnic makeup.

A win by Anne Flores Santiago or Richard Cantú would give Hispanics three of HISD’s nine school board seats. More than half of HISD’s 210,000 students are Hispanic. Cisneros is Anglo and married to a Hispanic.

The current board comprises four whites, three blacks and two Hispanics.

Cisneros has endorsed Natasha Kamrani, a 37-year-old lawyer who came to Houston from Ohio 15 years ago as a Teach for America corps member teaching Spanish-speaking students at Edison Middle School.

Her husband, Chris Barbic, runs the YES College Prep charter schools.

Kamrani said she would push to improve HISD’s middle schools and support policies aimed at preparing all high school graduates for college.

Santiago, 38, wants to expand an HISD partnership with the Houston Community College System that allows high school students to earn college credits. Too many HISD students are graduating without basic skills, she said.

“We need to make sure our students can read and write when they graduate from high school,” Santiago said at a recent candidates’ forum. Santiago owns a private ambulance service and her mother, Yolanda Navarro Flores, is a member of the community college board. She is endorsed by HISD Trustee Diana Dávila, the wife of HCCS board member Abel Dávila.

Cantú, 36, runs Mayor Bill White’s Citizens’ Assistance Office and is the only District 1 candidate who has sought a school board seat before. He has promised to make teacher pay raises and HISD’s high dropout rate his top priorities.

He is endorsed by HISD’s main teachers union, the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Cantu said he supports HISD’s partnership with Project GRAD, a non-profit group that promises $4,000 college scholarships to graduates from certain low-income schools. The organization requires the schools it supports to use its teaching methods and strict disciplinary practices. HISD trustees this year cut Project GRAD’s budget by $1 million amid concerns from some administrators that the organization hasn’t delivered strong enough results.

Cisneros has endorsed Kamrani, who is definitely the favorite choice in my neighborhood. I’ll have more on this shortly, but in the meantime I’ll point you to Kamrani’s website so you can learn more about her, and to my previous Q&A session with Cantu.

Finally, the tireless Sal Costello has a pointer to more video of him disputing pro-Prop 1 assertions. Eye on Williamson has more on yesterday’s Costello video, plus a plea to help No Nonsense In November in that county.

UPDATE: Forgot to note that BOR has some information on statewide coverage of the Save Texas Marriage effort, and that Jonathan Ichikawa was way ahead of the curve on this one.

My question for Bill

This article on Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson is interesting, but ultimately doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the famously publicity-shy cartoonist that we haven’t read elsewhere. With one exception:

Bill Watterson, 47, hasn’t made a public appearance since he delivered the commencement speech in 1990 at his alma mater, Kenyon College. But he recently welcomed some written questions from fans to promote the Oct. 4 release of the three-volume “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,” which contains every one of the 3,160 strips printed during its 10-year run.

Among his revelations:

• He reads newspaper comics, but doesn’t consider this their golden age.

• He’s never attended any church.

• He’s currently interested in art from the 1600s.

None of those facts are particularly compelling to me, but I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d known about this in time to submit a question of my own. What I’d have asked him is “Are you aware of all those damned peeing Calvin stickers out there, and would it have killed you to have done something to protect your copyright?” Because I’d sure like to know the answer to that.

UPDATE: According to two commenters so far, Watterson has said that he’s aware of the peeing Calvin stickers and has made some efforts to stop them, but as they’re made and sold by a zillion tiny distributors, there’s no easy way to do that. Fair enough. I think what I wanted from him as far as protecting his copyright goes would have been to actually take a louder and more public stance about this phenomenon. Use the fact that he’s the creator of one of the best-loved comic strips of all time to tell everybody that he doesn’t like these stickers and wished people wouldn’t make, sell, or buy them. Who knows, maybe doing so early on, especially when the likeness of Calvin in these things was so apparent you could tell which individual strip it was taken from, would have killed this industry in its infancy. I guess what bugs me is that I’ve never seen a direct statement from Watterson about this, and I’ve always interpreted that as indifference on his part. I’m glad to hear that he really does care, but I sure do wish that fact were more widely known.

Game Three notes

Crap. Only good thing I can think of to say is that I gave up and went to bed after the ninth.

One question: I know she was cute and all, but why did the Fox cameras keep focusing on that one brunette White Sox fan? Or did I just answer my own question?

Last chance tonight, Astros. Nothing to lose at this point, so let it all hang out.