WACO, Texas (BP) — Former Baylor University basketball star Brittney Griner has acknowledged she is a lesbian and said her coach at Baylor asked her not to discuss her sexuality.
“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said in a recent interview with ESPN. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.”
Coach Kim Mulkey has declined to address Griner’s remarks, but did release a statement saying, “Brittney Griner represented Baylor University proudly on and off the basketball court, and she leaves behind an incredible legacy. I cannot comment on personal matters surrounding any of our student-athletes, but I can tell you Brittney will always be a celebrated member of the Baylor family.”
Baylor’s sexual misconduct policy lists “homosexual acts” along with sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery and fornication as behaviors that are prohibited and abusive of God’s gift of human sexuality within the context of heterosexual marriage.
According to the ESPN The Magazine feature on Griner, when she chose to play at Baylor, she and her parents “knew nothing of the school’s policy against homosexuality or of coach Kim Mukey’s code of silence on the matter.”
Griner admits she told Mulkey during the recruiting process that she was a lesbian and said that Mulkey told her that wasn’t a problem. But early in her time at Baylor, Griner said a school official asked her to delete a tweet to an ex-girlfriend, according to the ESPN story.
Though Griner has expressed frustration with Mulkey and Baylor because she felt she wasn’t allowed to be open about her homosexuality, some of Mulkey’s former players have defended the coach against Griner’s charges.
“I’ve watched people destroy Brittney in the media about her looks, about her voice, about the way she talks, the way she walks — and I’ve watched Kim lose sleep over defending and making statements and making sure she was respected,” said Stasha Richards, who played at Baylor from 1999-2003, in an article on SB Nation. “In my opinion, she went out of her way to defend her.”
A recent New York Times article questioned what effect Griner’s coming out would have on Baylor’s overall approach to homosexuality.
“Even so, if it is too soon to know with certainty whether Baylor’s public acceptance of Ms. Griner’s sexuality will extend to the John and Jane Queer of its rank-and-file student body, a more expansive kind of change seems possible thanks to what one might call the Griner Effect,” wrote the Times’ Samuel G. Freedman.
Freedman quoted Baylor junior Erica Heath, described in the story as “the kind of garden-variety L.G.B.T. student at Baylor who may benefit from the opening Ms. Griner has created.”
“The fact that this celebrity comes out means that faculty and staff have to recognize that there are L.G.B.T. students on their campus,” Heath said. “It can make teachers more aware of who they’re speaking to. It’s very easy to think you’re in an all-straight, all-Christian community at Baylor. But you aren’t.”
Griner, who ranks second in NCAA women’s basketball history with 3,283 career points, was selected by the Phoenix Mercury with the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft. In two games in the new WNBA season, Griner is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).