Since the initial "Outside The Lines" segment aired on ESPN a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had very mixed emotions about this "situation" regarding Brittney Griner and Baylor University.
I’m a staunch supporter of gay rights, probably much more so than the average Baylor fan. It saddens me that so many kids discover they are gay, and feel like they have to hide who they are. Some fear the reaction of their parents, some fear ridicule by their peers, and some even have to fear violence.
Brittney came out to her parents as a middle school student. When she arrived at Baylor in 2009, I think it’s safe to say most people assumed she was gay. She was the subject of ridicule, be it by internet "tough guys" who wrote some of the most disgusting things about another human being you could ever read, or at road games where she was verbally assaulted and even physically threatened. But she was always supported by Baylor and, more specifically, by Coach Kim Mulkey. If there was one thing Brittney didn’t have to deal with, it was ridicule from Baylor fans. You would be hard pressed to find a Baylor fan or alum that didn't defend Brittney as though she was family.
And that’s what made the comments from Brittney in the ESPNW article so hard to swallow (you can find it here). Friday afternoon, 1660 ESPN’s David Smoak aired interviews with two of Griner’s former teammates, Brooklyn Pope and Jordan Madden, where both of these ladies commented on their quotes in the article, Coach Kim Mulkey, and their experience as basketball players at Baylor. In their interviews, they both tell a much different side of the story than is portrayed by Griner in the Kate Fagan piece. Not of a coach who told her players to keep their sexuality a secret for recruiting purposes, but of a coach who made every effort to protect her players, by having them keep all of their personal business personal.
Baylor had been completely quiet on the issue, until Friday evening when Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News tweeted the following comment from Baylor President Ken Starr: "All I know is that we adore her, she had four great years and we’re proud of her." There has been much talk of Baylor’s official stance on homosexuality, but I believe President Starr’s comments mirror that of the vast majority of Baylor fans.
I still hold out hope that Brittney’s recent comments are guided by the greed of an agent, the desperation of a writer with an agenda, and a network who has a vested interest in the prosperity of the league where Griner now plays. I know Brittney's life outside of basketball has not been easy. I'm sure all of the years of verbal attacks have taken a toll on her emotionally. Maybe that's part of why she's made the comments that she has. I hope she will see that Baylor fans still want to be Brittney Griner fans, and she'll stop pushing them away. I hope someday there can be reconciliation between Brittney and Baylor, because the story of Baylor’s athletic resurgence isn't complete without her.