You might find it a little surprising to hear any professional athlete in the United States describe their experience of competing in the sport they love at the highest level in the world as "toxic."
But that's exactly what a former Minnesota Lynx player had to say about the 8 years she spent in the WNBA.
It was a depressing state in the WNBA. It's not watched. Our value is diminished. It can be quite hard. I didn't like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me.
By all accounts Candice Wiggins had the type of career most young women could only dream of. She was the No. 3 overall pick by the Minnesota Lynx in 2008 out of Stanford – where she was a four-time All American. Wiggins was named the WNBA's Sixth Woman of the Year as a rookie and won a WNBA title with the Lynx in 2011.
But Wiggins says those experiences only hide a harmful culture of bullying and jealousy.
In an interview with with San Diego Union Tribune, Wiggins claims that she was a target from the day she was drafted by the Lynx because she was a straight woman.
"Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge," Wiggins told the newspaper. "I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply."
While that was the most prominent of Wiggins' complaints about her time in the WNBA she also expressed some frustration with the state of the league.
"It was a depressing state in the WNBA. It's not watched. Our Value is diminished. It can be quite hard," she told the Union Tribune. "I didn't like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much it was toxic for me."
A WNBA spokesman told ESPN the league would not comment on Wiggins' claims. ESPN notes the league doesn't release the number of gay players in it.
Not everyone agrees with the claims made by Wiggins though.
Monique Currie – an 11-year veteran of the WNBA – wrote on her blog Tuesday that she's never witnessed the kind of bullying Wiggins described.
"This does not mean it did not happen but I'm proud to be a part of a league that supports inclusion and celebrates all players regardless of their race, religion or sexuality," Currie wrote Tuesday. "We are a family made up of players that love and respect the game of basketball. We are dedicated to growing the game and our league through integrity, honesty and hardwork."
This probably isn't the last we hear on what Wiggins has to say about her time in the WNBA. She is planning to write an autobiography about her experiences. She's also pursuing a career as a professional beach volleyball player.