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Last month, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm announced that it would host a “Stand With Planned Parenthood” event at its July 18 home game. Support would include a donation of $5 from each ticket sold (a sellout would be 9,686), an auction to raise money for the organization and a rally outside the arena before the game, which is to be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
That politics have encroached on the world of sports in today’s highly partisan climate is no surprise. High-profile athletes from Colin Kaepernick to LeBron James have endorsed political candidates and spoken openly about issues like race relations and police misconduct. But the Storm’s activism around a hot-button social issue stakes out new ground as perhaps the most overtly political statement made not by an individual player or a coach, but by an entire organization. Following the announcement, The Nation heaped praise on the effort.
The move by the Storm is a recognition that women’s health is under attack and sports franchises—not merely athletes—can play a role in turning this around,” wrote Dave Zirin. The reaction at Breitbart was less enthusiastic.
Behind the decision to wade into the politics of the moment is the Storm’s ownership group, which is made up of three women: Dawn Trudeau, Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder. They purchased the team for $10 million in 2008 and kept the Storm in Seattle when the city’s NBA team, the SuperSonics, was bought and moved to Oklahoma City.
Trudeau, a former Microsoft executive who, until the Storm, had no experience in sports (she wasn’t an athlete in school), is a self-made millionaire. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she set off for Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a teenager with a few hundred dollars and two suitcases, hoping to attend the University of Michigan. Instead, she found a job building computer monitors and taught herself how to program. She eventually relocated to Seattle for another tech job, and, despite never earning a college degree, she landed in 1984 at Microsoft, where she rose to general manager of consumer products. After 15 years with the company, she left to join a venture philanthropy firm. I spoke with Trudeau about her decision to speak out in support of Planned Parenthood, the risks that come with taking a political stand and her journey through the worlds of tech and sports.