The Olympic gold medalist became a father in 2002, the same year he married high school sweetheart Siohvaughn Funches. The former couple split in 2007 and share son Zaire and daughter Zaya. Wade filed for divorce in 2010 and a messy court battle ensued, with the basketball pro being granted sole custody of the duo’s two kids in 2011.
More than a decade later, Funches accused her ex-husband of using Zaya for personal gain after Wade filed a petition to legally change her name to Zaya and her gender to female. “I have concerns that [Wade] may be pressuring our child to move forward with the name and gender change in order to capitalize on the financial opportunities that he has received from companies, and will receive based upon [his] statements to me, on the basis of our child’s name and/or gender change,” Funches alleged in court docs obtained by Us Weekly in November 2022.
The public speaker expressed her concerns over Zaya “being commercialized at a young age,” claiming that Wade told her in April 2022 that “a lot of money had been already made” in relation “to our child’s name and gender issue.”
Wade swiftly shut down the “serious and harmful” accusations in a lengthy note shared via Instagram. “While none of us are surprised by Siohvaughn’s attempt to fight Zaya’s identity and her unwavering attempt to drag my name through the mud, I’m very disappointed that she continuously find ways of centering herself and HER needs, without regard to her children,” he wrote in November 2022. “This report came out while Zaya was in class. This is a kid who has maintained a 4.0 GPA in honors classes while navigating all this unsolicited and harmful attention and debates about her gender and sexuality from those who are committed to not listening to her, much less even knowing her.”
The Illinois native claimed his former spouse has “left her home to see more lawyers and has taken the time to talk to more lawyers since I filed for divorce, than she’s left her home to actually see or have truly spoken and LISTENED to Zaya over all these years,” despite giving Funches ample opportunity to “get to know” their child.
He continued: “No one in our house would ever force Zaya or any of our children to do anything against their will, much less force an identity on them. This isn’t a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya. This is her life.”
At the time, Wade praised Gabrielle Union for standing by his side and for supporting Zaya’s journey. The twosome began dating in 2008 and briefly split five years later before getting engaged in December 2013. They exchanged vows the following August.
“The stepparent label was put on me by the kids’ school because you have to describe yourself: ‘Who are you if you’re not their mother?’ It’s very annoying,” the 10 Things I Hate About You star noted in a November 2021 episode of the “We Can Do Hard Things With Glennon Doyle” podcast. “It’s not a word that I use. … Don’t try to replace the other parent. That is not your job. Your job is to be consistent.”
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