© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WNBA star birth announcement surprises many


At a time of year when many pause to reflect and rejoice, Candace Parker has much to celebrate.

The 35-year-old is no doubt basking in the glow of the championship she led the Chicago Sky of the WNBA to in September.

It’s the second title of Parker’s professional career and considering that she graduated from Naperville High, in the western Chicago suburbs, this ring is likely a bit more special than the first one she won with Los Angeles five years ago.

And, as if that weren’t enough bliss, Parker, who already has a daughter, is about to welcome a second child to her family.

Couldn’t be more idyllic, more joyful, right? Well, for Candace Parker, while it’s blue skies ahead, pun intended, for others, her news has raised a few eyebrows. Parker’s announcement, made on Instagram, came in a lovely photo with she and 12-year-old Lailaa, dressed in white and flanking a third person, Parker’s wife, Anya Petrankova.

Indeed, Parker chose the occasion of the announcement of the baby to reveal that she and Petrankova, a Russian basketball player, had been married for two years.

The news caught many off guard, as Parker had been married to Shelden Williams, himself a basketball player as well as Lailaa’s dad. Apparently, only those closest to Parker and Petrankova knew about their relationship.

Which, when you get right down to it, is the way it should be, right? Who you love should really only be of interest or concern to you, right?

Well, in a perfect world, that would be a true statement. But many if not most LGBTQ athletes are still waiting for that perfect world, even on the doorstep of 2022.

Ever since the days when Joe DiMaggio pursued then married Marilyn Monroe, the public has been fascinated with the romantic lives of athletes.

But the positive fascination has usually been fueled by an assumption that all the players we’re intrigued by are straight.

Remember, it’s only been since this season when defensive lineman Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders that we’ve had an openly gay NFL player make a roster.

It’s been lesbian athletes who have typically been more comfortable living openly. Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes acknowledged her relationship with a woman 16 years ago, though she, like Parker, first married a man and gave birth to a child before feeling she could live her truth.

Now, it’s not such a big thing to see female athletes who love each other step out of the proverbial closet and live in the sunlight. To wit, during the WNBA playoffs, the online outlet Out Sports estimated that at least a quarter of the players in the postseason were LGBTQ and out.

To that point, there may be no more high-profile athletic couple currently than Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, who is engaged to soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

For that matter, two of Parker’s teammates, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley are married to each other.

Maybe you’d prefer a time and place where who an athlete dates or marries is of no consequence. Well, guess what? Candace Parker, her wife and their kids would love to meet you then and there.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Email: [email protected]

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.