As soon as 6-foot-8 superstar Birttney Griner stepped onto the floor as a freshman at Baylor, everyone knew that she would eventually be selected No. 1-overall in the WNBA Draft. Well, that speculation was made official on Monday night when the Phoenix Mercury tabbed her as the face of their franchise.
What those same folks did not know, however, was that Griner is gay.
During interviews with the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and USA Today, however, Griner publicly made her sexuality clear.
After she confirmed to SI’s Maggie Gray that she is indeed gay, Gray asked Griner why the perception between homosexual athletes in men’s and women’s sports is so different.
“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different. Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”
“Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are,” she said.
The way the new Mercury center described her mindset, she made it seem like her decision to come out publicly was easy. In fact, to her at least, it was.
“It really wasn’t too difficult,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that. I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”
Griner is the perfect person to lead the charge for increased equality in the sports realm, simply because she is so utterly dominant. The former Bears superstar and national champion is the second scorer in the history of women’s college basketball with 3,283 career points and her 748 career blocks are easily the most of any player ever, men’s or women’s.
Then again, her massive stature, while coming in handy on her dunks, was not always a point of pride. She spoke to the AP about being picked on growing up, and how her reaction has allowed her to become the strong, confident player and person she is today.
“Just being bigger, my sexuality, everything,” she told the AP. “I overcame it and got over it. Definitely something that I am very passionate about. I want to work with kids and bring recognition to the problem, especially with the LGBT community.”
Finally, USA Today wanted to know what her parents thought of all this?
“My parents didn’t know at the time,” Griner told the newspaper. “I hadn’t come out completely. It was kind of like, you know … I just hadn’t said it. My dad and my mom have always told me, ‘Be who you are.’ At the time, they probably weren’t sure what I was interpreting that as,” she said with a laugh.
There are still no openly gay male professional athletes in any American sport, although the environment seems to be readying itself for one. The ‘machismo’ culture around men’s sports seems to have made it more difficult than it has been for a woman.
Griner is one of the few nationally renowned female athletes. Her voice and her stature carries far more weight than probably she herself even recognizes.
Now, we simply must wait and see if other athletes waiting to come out have heeded her words and have found a way to be comfortable in their own skin.