WNBA Player Sheryl Swoopes’s Pregnancy Was Groundbreaking and Marketable

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ESPN’s Sheryl Swoopes documentary — Swoopes, part of its Title IX series — is set to air tomorrow. Today, the Atlantic highlighted the impact of one of her least remarkable bodily feats: getting pregnant. Swoopes announced she was pregnant shortly after winning Olympic gold in Atlanta and partnering with Nike (Air Swoopes), on the eve of the WNBA’s inaugural season, in which she was supposed to be one of its most prominent faces. In a time when pregnancy meant retirement for most female athletes (it was sometimes stipulated in their contracts). Swoopes showed other female players they didn’t need to ask permission to be women, that their needs would be accommodated. They might even be billed as selling points! “Instead of sulking that its star had performed a natural, biological function without permission, the WNBA decided to market Sheryl as an everyday mom — a convenient hook for the league's effort to peg itself a kid-and-family-friendly outlet,” Judith Okiuhare wrote. “The network filmed her pregnant and shared her progress in promotional material for the WNBA and, more importantly, Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor made it possible for Swoopes to reintegrate herself into the team dynamic just six weeks after giving birth.” She was also allowed to breastfeed courtside.

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