Bird is an out, proud lesbian, but she recognized that, to some, “I pass as a straight woman.” She continued, noting that she is also white, “small and, therefore, not intimidating, compared to Syl, who is Black, dark-skinned and of a certain stature, yeah, that is 100 percent at play here.”
Fowles acknowledged as much, but didn’t seem in the mood to dissect it.
“You think you’re supposed to do everything right, and then when you do everything right, that you’ll get noticed,” she said. “But for multiple reasons, that’s not the case.”
Fowles’s voice trailed.
“Why do I have to work twice as hard just to get noticed?”
She wished for a better future: that the next generations of greats who look like her will be far better known, that the W.N.B.A. will find a way to promote all of its players. “Eighty percent of us are Black women, and you have to figure out how to market those Black women,” she said. “I don’t think we do that quite well.”
Fowles has done what she can to pave the way for those changes. She has performed in a way that will stand the test of time. “I’m proud of myself that I have been the same person from 2008 to 2022,” she said. “I’m not a pushover. I’m a leader, and not a follower. I stand up and speak on things that I believe.”
In her last season, playing the role of on-court coach to a young and struggling Lynx team, she was averaging nearly 15 points and almost 10 rebounds per game through Minnesota’s 81-71 win Sunday over Atlanta.
The fight for respect will now fall to other players as Fowles sets off for a profession that fits perfectly with a personality Bird described as motherly.