Brittany Griner, Baylor, and the Politics of Sexual Exclusion

I have to make a confession, I have never liked Brittany Griner. She may be greatest female basketball player that the world has seen, with the kind of promise that Sheryle Swoopes had when she graduated from Texas Tech. She is a profoundly talented athlete, capable of dominating competition even at the highest level. It remains to be seen if she can remain healthy and fulfill her potential at the next level, but there is no questioning Griner’s exceptional dominance of college basketball. I’ve always followed the women’s game. Duke always had great teams, and my old training buddy and former student/advisee  Christian Foster was the son of Jim Foster, the coach of the Vanderbilt women’s team, and now the head coach at Ohio State. Jim is a good person and a great coach, and his teams have been successful.

I didn’t hate Griner because she was a dirty, physical player—which she is. She has gone so far as to  punch an opponent and break her nose in an NCAA game—and received only a one game suspension from Baylor, and none from the NCAA. I can’t imagine a male player getting away with that, frankly. But, it wasn’t so much that. The reason why I have always loathed Brittany Griner is that she played for Baylor. Baylor is one of the dirtiest NCAA sports programs. It is an virtually all-white Southern Baptist school that has invested heavily in basketball and football, with predictably scandalous results. Baylor is one of the intellectual centers for the Christian Right, promoting radical right wing Christianity across their entire curriculum, and supporting radical conservative intellectuals while indoctrinating students to further their cause. The current President is Ken Starr, the former special prosecutor in charge of investigating blow jobs—and the Defender of Proposition 8 in front of the California Supreme Court. I absolutely loathe Baylor and everything that they stand for. Had Griner played for Tennessee or Ohio State, I might have a jersey with her name on it (she isn’t Duke or Stanford material (sorry, kid)). Indeed, even at Baylor, they shunt all of the jocks into some bullshit “general studies” track, and that is what Griner will be awarded a degree in, perhaps.

Not surprisingly, following Sheryl Swoopes and many top stars in women’s basketball and other sports, Griner is a lesbian and recently came out of the closet, matter-of-factly, in an interview with Sports Illustrated. In that and subsequent interviews she suggests that she has always been up front and comfortable about who she is. Of course, she is only now coming out of the closet as she is leaving Baylor, and has signed a lucrative professional contract and an endorsement contract with Nike. I applaud her success, and I’m glad that Nike is willing to put their money towards the best athletes in their sports.  But the Baylor thing still leaves me wanting more from Griner. It’s simply not true that her sexuality didn’t matter at Baylor, and I wonder what top officials at Baylor Athletics are now saying and doing regarding her announcement. This is, after all, a school that doesn’t even allow gay and lesbian organizations on campus, and counts among its faculty some of the staunchest opponents of civil rights for GLBT persons. Indeed, about half or more of the Sociology department at Baylor signed a statement supporting Mark Regnerus’ bullshit study denigrating gay parents.

What does the current Women’s coach at Baylor have to say about their greatest star ever?

What Does Ken Starr have to say about Brittany Griner’s coming out?

Do they all think she’s going to hell? Do they want an entrance questionnaire to make sure that no more gays or lesbians join their sports teams? I mean, if you hate gays and don’t support their “choices” then maybe you shouldn’t win championships using their talents.

For Griner, she’s a kid, but it’d still be nice if she’d come out of the closet about what things were really like at Baylor. She can’t really be so clueless, can she?

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2 Responses to “Brittany Griner, Baylor, and the Politics of Sexual Exclusion”

  1. Amy Wilkins Says:

    It strikes me as not all that odd that Baylor would try to capitalize off the body and talents of someone they despised (a lesbian, in this case). Isn’t that how college sports works? Capitalizing off of the (black and brown) bodies of students they do not fully integrate into the academic mission of the university?

  2. sherkat Says:

    Somehow this seem even worse than usual to me. Maybe it’s just because I loathe Baylor so much, and I’ve hated seeing them rise to the top of women’s basketball on the back of an African American lesbian. I don’t even think women should go to Baylor, much less non-white women, and the idea of a black lesbian woman at Baylor is just about too much to take. It isn’t the kid’s fault, they obviously gave her the athletic support she needed. But the hypocrisy of Baylor is just mind-blowing.

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