Love and Basketball: 5 Reasons You Should Be a Brittney Griner Fan

Mercury welcome Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner is not the first female athlete to come out about her sexuality, nor is she the first black woman in the WNBA to do so.  What she is, though, is the first black woman athlete of her caliber (she is compared to the late great Wilt Chamberlain) to come out on the front end of her professional basketball career.  A towering 6 feet 8 inches tall, Griner is no stranger to attention or controversy.  Her feats on the basketball court have earned her numerous awards including an ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete and two Naismith trophies.  She is sorta a big deal!

As women who are non-gender conforming, female athletes regularly face public scrutiny, discrimination, and accusations about their sexuality and sex.  People often comment about women athletes as if they are trying to be or imitate men, calling them “mannish” or “tomboys.”  Accordingly, women athletes are often afraid of being seen as unpretty or unkempt (remember when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team as “nappy headed hoes?”) and may feel the need to exaggerate their femininity to fit in and/or avoid innuendoes about their sexuality.  (As a child I was a big Florence Griffith-Joyner, aka Flo-Jo fan.  Her appearance was even more memorable than her speed and elegance on the field.  She wore long hair, sexy outfits and fingernails, unnecessary adornments that seemed to serve as a reminder that despite her athletic prowess she was still first and foremost “a girl.”)

The one and only Flo-Jo
The one and only Flo-Jo

Brittney Griner doesn’t feel the need to wear dresses or look feminine to prove she is a woman.  Her gender performance is masculine and she embraces it.  She is not concerned about what other people think or say about her.

But what makes Brittney Griner special is not that she is a powerhouse woman athlete (we have seen that before), an amazing talent (we have seen that before), that she is openly gay (we have seen that before) or even that she can dunk a basketball (we have seen that before).  What makes Griner extraordinary is that she is a gender-bending, woman-loving, basketball playing, androgynous woman superstar-in-the-making who is unapologetic and unsecretive about her sexuality or her past.  In fact the 22 year old opens up about more than her sexuality in her recent interview with ESPNW and ESPN The Magazine.

She is beautiful and handsome and people don’t know what to do with that.  She doesn’t hide behind the anonymity of being an athlete or shy away from the fact that the general public is generally homophobic and resistant of difference.  She is proud of who she is and is determined to live in her truth.  As one of (if not) the most famous black woman basketball players in the world right now, she is using that platform to represent other transgendered and/or lesbian blackgirls who are ball players.

Griner is doing her thing and being herself which is opening up some important conversations about what it means to be different.  Here are five (of many) reasons you should be a fan:

1.  Even if you are not a (women’s) basketball fan you have to respect Griner’s raw and unquestionable talent.  In her WNBA debut she broke a record by being the first player to dunk twice in one game!  And have you seen this clip from 2009 when she was still in high school?

2.  In a personal essay for The New York Times in response to Jason Collins coming out, she wrote: “Just as basketball doesn’t define who I am, neither does being gay.”  Even though folk attempted to pit her against
Collins because his “coming out” announcement received more publicity than hers, she didn’t take the bait and instead expressed her excitement and appreciation for Collins.

(It is, however, important to note that it took a gay black man to come out in a major sport for the world to take notice. The fact that Collins’ announcement followed Griner’s by 11 days and some venues erroneously credit Collins with giving Griner the courage to come out is beyond problematic (but the topic of another blog, another day).  In The New York Times article Female Star Comes Out as Gay, and Sports World Shrugs, Jim Buzinski, a founder of suspected that the non-reaction people had about the revelation of Griner’s announcement was because she was a woman.  He is quoted in the article saying, “Can you imagine if a man did the exact same thing? Everyone’s head would have exploded.”  How true his prediction was!)

3.  She is a badass blackgirl role model.  On the cover of ESPN’s “Taboo Issue” she is seen flossin’ a huge yellow snake (she says she can relate to snakes because they, like her, are misunderstood for being different) around her neck like a necklace.   She is fearless, brave and unapologetic about being (all of) herself.  Her self-acceptance and graceful response to the vitriol of (social) media attacks and bullying will help normalize difference and hopefully encourage young all people to be self-loving.  She is also committed to work with LGBTQ youth.

4.  She calls people out for their homophobic bullshit!  She faces cyberbullies and mean-spirited commenters head on online regularly reading comments though rarely responding to them.  Having been teased and taunted all her life for being/looking different she has found a way to not take the hate-speech to heart.  She has also been transparent about the fact  that administrators at Baylor (the private Baptist university where she attended college and played basketball) enforced a don’t ask, don’t tell policy against homosexuality, and pressured her to keep her sexuality a “open secret.”  She was not allowed to not talk about or openly express her sexuality.  By not continuing to keep the secret of the circumstances she faced as a gay college athlete she will hopefully force Baylor and other schools with similar hidden policies to not push athletes into closets they don’t want to be in.  One’s sexuality has nothing to do with one’s athletic ability and should therefore not be used against them as student athletes.

5.  She’s not going anywhere!  Griner was the #1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft (to the Phoenix Mercury) and has had an impressive start to her professional career; she has a Nike contract that will allow her the freedom to  wear menswear apparel (something that has never been done before); she is involved with the Its Get Better campaign;  and she is positioned to be a game changer in the league.  Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has said that he would consider recruiting her, which is likely a publicity stunt but brings up some interesting questions about what it would mean for men and women to compete against each other in professional sports.  Despite her openness to the possibility, it is unlikely that Griner will ever play with “the big boys,” on “the big stage,” it is heartening that she is able to utilize her celebrity to shake things up a little bit.

I have been pretty ambivalent with professional basketball for the past few years (I could literally care less about the Playoffs this year) but I am a big Brittney Griner fan.  I think you should be too!

14 thoughts on “Love and Basketball: 5 Reasons You Should Be a Brittney Griner Fan

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I was just commenting on a friends’ FB page in response to the question, what’s the big deal about pro-athletes coming out as gay. While she says she doesn’t care, the point is that A LOT of people do, and that can make for a hostile environment in the pro-sports community.

    1. No it dont!@embea!…Its when you stay in the closet and not be who you really are is when it becomes a problem!…BE OUT!

  2. I find myself constantly defending BG to total strangers as well as family members and quite frankly, it’s exhausting. But I want to and feel an obligation to do it because she represents me and countless others : a womyn who stands out in some way who doesn’t fit in to what’s considered the normal or approved standard of femininity but had to find the peace within to be ok with it. A womyn who was picked on and called names by kids AND adults; names you may not have known the definition of until you became older and realized that these people seemed to know more (or assumed they knew) about your sexuality back then way before you knew or understood it yourself. A womyn who works longer, harder and faster than any and everyone in hopes that your work ethic and dedication would divert attention from your appearance or walk or assumed sexuality because you want to prove that your good enough.
    Have you seen the comment postings on social networks and news sites regarding BG? They’re vicious, disgusting and beyond offensive. And they all fail to mention her abilities on the court but focus on her appearance, her voice and calls for DNA testing to be sure she is biologically a womyn. They also fail to remember that she is young, very young. I can only imagine being a 15 year old child reading these comments by other kids AND adults who have no regard for how this would make anyone feel let alone a child who has no say in what happens to her body due to puberty and genetics.
    I’m proud of her and every womyn athlete who wants to let their work ethic speak for themselves. I will always proudly defend them whenever and wherever, no matter the sport. And if they’re willing to handle the weight of representing the LGBTQ community on their shoulders, I can’t help but to stand beside them and defend them, too. We all should.

    1. . Thank you P&C for your positive comment. Brittney Griner is Mind Blowing. Apparently the uneducated people making these negative comments about her skill and talent never watch sports science or watched her play college ball. I never knew women’s basketball was so entertaining to watch until I saw her. Just want you know as a fellow TEXAN, that you have my full support as a Young, Black, Lesbian Woman. Standing 6 feet 8 inches tall, when I look at you, I thank GOD for his gift of sight. You are in my mind the 1st wonder of the world. Keep playing basketball and I will continue to watch.

  3. You can try to manufacture envy as much as you’d like, but sooner or later, the “coming out” story will get old and no one will care. She can dunk and block, and she might even develop a dependable hook shot as early as this season, but the fact of the matter is that she’s not an interesting basketball player to watch. Elena Delle Donne is a much better basketball player than Griner is and there a bunch of players in the WNBA that are more exciting to watch. The idea that everyone is marketing Griner on the basis of her sexuality and not her skill on the court is probably the worse thing to come out of all of this “coming out” business.

    1. Good to find a fellow b-ball fan on here. Delle Donne is good her game reminds me of Bird (not cuz she white but she can shoot and pass) . Griner reminds me of the young Lew Alcindor so big but agile. You don’t see big players move like that. She’s a force that can impose her will. I loved women’s college b-ball I watched more of it than the men this year. That excitement hopefully comes to WNBA with Delle Donne and Griner and Diggins.

      1. You know something? My dad said the same thing when we watched the Mercury vs Sky game. He said BG reminds him of of a young Alcindor for some reason and then we debated about her height (I said 6’5, he said 6’8. Dad was correct).
        I watched the Liberty play Tulsa the other day and Diggins didn’t do so well (Jay-Z, Allan Houston and Sue Wicks were there). But I honestly believe that all rookies need time to adjust so they’re going to suck for the 1st season; especially since they just graduated, just got drafted in April and the season has already started. It’s a quick turnaround for anyone so I’m just glad the league is getting more exposure. Maybe then they can get rid of the sponsors on their jerseys because the league and owners will have more money to support each team.
        I could not stand the Houston Comets BUT they were the 1st dynasty and it was a shame they folded. If their names (the top 3 draft picks) can ring bells, put fans in the seats and keep a team from moving or folding, I’m all for it.

        *Lew Alcindor is the birth name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for those who may not know.

      2. Here is a way to win a bet: who had more dunks in college Brit Griner or Lew Alcindor? Griner! The NCAA banned the dunk from college ball out of fear of his dominance.

  4. As to her and Jason Collins coming out (although she was never “in”) I get it being bigger news if it’s a man but he leaves me ambivalent. For one he came out when he was 34 not 24. With his career likely over this gave him a huge profile and likely huge appearance fees book deals and the trappings of celebrity. For another he strung a woman along 8 years thinking he would marry her. That was selfish and cowardly.

  5. What if Flojo just liked wearing her sexy outfits, long hair, and nails? What if she enjoyed them? Why does her wearing these things mean she was trying to “prove” something? She was from Watts, CA and her prime in the Olympics was in the 1980s– her stylistic choices were authentic to where she came from and these were features were “en vogue” at the time for many American women and African American women in particular. I would also read it as her staying true to the culture and place that she came from and not giving into the pressure to appear like she wasn’t from the hood! I never read it as her attempting to appear traditionally feminine despite her athletic prowess and physique.

  6. To ALL the Brittney Griner HATERS, I would just like to say SUCK IT. She is an AMAZING athlete. GOD has blessed her with an extraordinary GIFT, and if you’re jealous that she was granted this talent, take that issue up with GOD. So what she is almost 7 feet tall. I would hang off her tree any day, so what she has a deep voice, so does Toni Braxton, Angie Harmon, Angela Bassett, Kim Whitley, just to name a few. With all the REAL LIFE issues threatening the world today, why be so threatened by a young woman who only wants to share her gifts with the world and be a positive role model for the LGBT Community. If you’re NOT GAY, then tip your hat to her and congratulate her on being the star that she truly is. I’m a lesbian who is not only proud of the woman I become, but just like some woman blush and gush over Morris Chestnut, Boris Kodjoe, and Michael Ealy etc. Britney Griner makes my heart skip a beat. Tall, slim, funny and SEXY.

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