Baylor told Brittney Griner not to talk about the, y’know, lesbian thing

When Brittney Griner, the first pick in this year’s WNBA draft, mentioned to SI.com last month that she’s a lesbian, it wasn’t a huge coming-out moment for anyone who knew her, because she’d been open about her sexuality since her freshman year of high school. It might have been a surprise to anyone who was only familiar with her college career, though, because she was on strict orders from Baylor University to keep quiet about it.

“It was a recruiting thing,” Griner said during an interview with ESPN The Magazine and espnW. “The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids come play for Baylor.”

“I told Coach [Mulkey] when she was recruiting me. I was like, ‘I’m gay. I hope that’s not a problem,’ and she told me that it wasn’t,” Griner said. “I mean, my teammates knew, obviously, they all knew. Everybody knew about it.”

A private, Baptist university, Baylor has rules about “purity” and proper behavior and “sexual misconduct,” which clearly indicate that Griner’s extra-extracurricular activities during high school don’t fit in with their Good Christian Values.

Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.

They specify that “[m]isuse of God’s gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts.” Baylor says they will “strive to deal in a constructive and redemptive manner with all who fail to live up to this high standard,” which I’m guessing involves wind sprints or tip drills or something. (“Griner! Gay again?! You know the drill — ten laps!”)

So the university knew when they recruited Griner that she was a misuser of God’s gift. And they easily could have said, “What? Oh, sorry, no — we actually have a whole policy about that.” But instead, they said, “Wait, a 6’8″ dominating center with more blocked shots than any other high-school girl in the country? You could be useful to us! Just don’t make us look bad with all the, y’know, lesbianity. Here’s your scholarship; now shut up and post up, sinner.”

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41 Responses to Baylor told Brittney Griner not to talk about the, y’know, lesbian thing

  1. Victoria says:

    That’s awful, but I’m (sadly) not too surprised that a religiously affiliated university would censure that, and you are spot on about them using her.

    However, I wonder, wouldn’t she have her pick of universities with as skilled as she was in high school? I mean, I’m not blaming her or saying she bears any responsibility in this, because she should be able to go to school wherever she wants and talk about her sexuality whilst there, but with a talent like hers, you would think she would have some leverage with them trying to silence her, because surely this would have come up during the recruitment process (I mean, I did my undergrad at a university where there was a chapel service that had an anti-LGBT message (though it was entirely student led), and there was still an LGBT student group on campus, so for a school with policies as conservative as Baylor, there had to be signs) and she had to be getting other offers. Like I said, it’s not her fault, it’s shitty on the schools part, I’m not surprised that such policies exist, but I am surprised that it happened to someone as prominent.

    • Victoria says:

      In my first comment, I meant censor, but censure fits too, because they do appear to express extreme disapproval and harsh criticism of LGBT people.

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      However, I wonder, wouldn’t she have her pick of universities with as skilled as she was in high school?

      IIRC, she wanted to stay relatively close to her family, which limited her options a lot.

      But yes, pretty much any college team in the country would have been overjoyed to get her.

    • Bruce From Missouri says:

      She could have gone anywhere, but Baylor was close to home, and Kim Mulkey is one of the 5 or so best coaches in the game. I”m not even sure that Mulkey cared beyond the fact that it’s a conservative Christian college. Also, I believe that Griner is a fairly committed Christian, and may have wanted to go to a baptist college.

      She would have had the same problem at Notre Dame (where Muffet McGraw, one of the other best coaches is), and similar problems at Tennessee where they like them light-skinned and “feminine” (part of the Imus uproar was Imus comparing the darker, tattooed “black” hairstyle wearing Rutgers team negatively against the lighter, straight-haired “ladylike”Tennessee team.)

      She could have gone to Stanford under Tara Vanderveer(if she could make grades, but they are an Ivy level school, so who knows if she could make their admission standards) but that takes her far away from home on one coast, or to Connecticut (Geno Aurriema) but that takes her even further away and gives her a male coach

      So, all in all, I think she made the right decision for her. Everybody knew, she just didn’t make it official until she was out.

  2. AMM says:

    I wasn’t familiar with Baylor College, but the linked article mentions it’s a “Christian” college, in the socially conservative sense of “Christian.”

    Once I knew that, the headline didn’t surprise me, any more than if I were to read that gay employees of Rush Limbaugh were expected to keep their sexuality quiet.

    That’s not to say I don’t condemn their stance, but it’s clear that it runs a lot deeper than one coach’s policy. It’s the stance of an entire wing of Christianity that needs to be confronted and condemned.

    (There’s also the whole issue of high school athletes being encouraged/pressured to think of colleges as being primarily sports teams rather than as institutions for education and enculturation, but that’s a separate rant.)

  3. Marksman2000 says:

    I were her–and I admit I’m a middle-finger-in-full-effect rebel–I would do the exact opposite of what the university told me to do.

    Fuck strict.

    Fuck the university.

    And fuck telling me to keep quiet.

    You gets none, Baylor.

    • Tyris says:

      And… you believe you would still have your scholarship or even a place at the university afterwards?

      • Well, we all know how easy it is for black women to get placements in universities.

      • Marksman2000 says:

        In answer to your query, and to be very candid, much would depend on her athletic performance. I realize that that’s sick, but I’ve worked for universities and I know how their administrations function. If she gets along with her team-mates and coach, and she wins games–maybe even a championship–yes, they’ll cut her more slack. Unfair? Of course, but that’s how suits-and-ties function.

        I’ve been fired from jobs because I’m an outspoken atheist who resides in the Bible Belt. Some people have told me that I should’ve taken up offers to attend church and prayer meetings with co-workers. No. No. No way. I’d rather be unemployed. And if I were this young women, I’d rather lose my scholarship.

        But this is just me, and as I admitted in the first line of my post, I’m rebellious.

      • Donna L says:

        Tyris, when bigotry clashes with big time college athletics, the latter usually wins. I think Baylor would almost certainly have done almost anything to keep her there. But I would never, ever second-guess her decision not to make an issue out of it. That was her business.

      • PM says:

        Some schools take their Honor Codes pretty seriously:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/04/AR2011030401742.html

        BYU might be more conservative than Baylor, but all this dude did was have premarital sex. While he wasn’t THE star player the way Griner was, he was a star player on nationally ranked (#3 at the time) basketball team.

    • Hugh says:

      There’s a special hell for people who like to talk about how hypothetically brave they would be in the face of the discrimination they’ve never experienced.

      • Marksman2000 says:

        If that’s the case, I’m glad to have suffered a similar type of discrimination.

      • Kerandria says:

        Are you a female POC?

      • Marksman2000 says:

        Key word: similar.

      • Nope. Different isms are different, particularly when it comes to a race/sexuality/gender threefer. Trust me. I’m in the same space, and I still wouldn’t presume to speak for her, not being black (with all the attendant glories of racism).

        Seriously, I fucking wish people would stop going off about how people need to Come Out Already Lol, as if people don’t have to think about putting food on the table and not getting beaten to death by angry homophobes (and it’s not like sports fans have ever been known to get violently angry about their “idols” “misbehaving”, right?). Particularly when the person in question is a black lesbian in the goddamn south. It’s not exactly homophobia, but it certainly helps in creating a Good Gay/Bad Gay hierarchy that screws every last LGBTQ person over.

        Signed,

        A Bad Gay.

      • Kerandria says:

        Cosigning every single word.

        Signed,

        A Bad Poly Bi who is closeted whilst living in the US bible belt.

      • PM says:

        “Seriously, I fucking wish people would stop going off about how people need to Come Out Already Lol, as if people don’t have to think about putting food on the table and not getting beaten to death by angry homophobes ”

        Yes, thank you thank you thank you.

  4. Angie unduplicated says:

    Tennessee, where the cost of living is cheap if you don’t include crime and public corruption. Pat Summitt, bless her retirement, could lose 120 IQ points and still be smarter than any Texas Southern Baptist. Heck, Knoxville churches may be praying for more Baylor homophobia when they hear ’bout this.

    • rhian says:

      I’m confused what Tennessee has to do with anything?

      • Tyris says:

        There’s a Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee that might conceivably be confused with Baylor University in Waco, Texas if you were in a hurry.

      • Willard says:

        Since she mentioned Pat Summitt and Knoxville I think she meant that the Lady Volunteers would have been happy to have Brittney. Thread fail for something higher up talking about other school options?

    • DouglasG says:

      [Heck, Knoxville churches may be praying for more Baylor homophobia when they hear ’bout this.]

      Couldn’t that be a little shortsighted? Tennessee may be slightly less anti-gay than Texas, but still has an anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment. Start somebody looking for a less homophobic atmosphere, and she could end up at UConn.

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        True, but it’s a state school, so at least on the books there are some anti-discriminatory laws that must be followed. I can’t understand why a lesbian WoC would even consider a private “Christian” school. Well, I can’t understand why anybody would actually.

      • miga says:

        Maybe because she’s a Christian, from the region, and wants to be near her family?

        It’s really brave of her to go, regardless of how out she was allowed to be. Her sacrifice may very well have paved the way for others to follow behind her.

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        Well, she’s from Houston, if not quite local, so that makes sense up to a point. I haven’t seen anything about her being Baptist. To qualify my earlier statement: I don’t know why anyone who hasn’t drunk the Baptist (or any other) Koolaid would attend such a college.

      • ashurredly says:

        I know a few people who went there because the school had an extracurricular program of high quality that would cover a lot/all of their costs. Sometimes that’s how decisions get made.

      • Rhoanna says:

        Tennessee doesn’t have a non-discrimination law that covers sexual orientation. They even passed a law that pre-empts local ordinances that would prevent companies from discriminating based on criteria not in state law.

        University of Tennessee does, however, have a non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation. But that isn’t a consequence of laws and it being a state school.

      • Actually, UConn has a nasty reputation for recruiting by hinting to families that the Lady Vols is a heavily lesbian program that will “turn” their daughters and UConn is the “family”, i.e. het, program. Those recruiting tactics led to a lot of bad blood between the programs, and led to Pat Summit’s refusal to play UConn in the regular season.

  5. xenu01 says:

    I have so much respect for her. So much. In fact, I kinda wanna be her when I grow up right now.

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  7. arcadesproject says:

    Baylor ? Baylor University? Well what the hell and what the fuck and where does Baylor get off, telling Griner or anyone else what they can or cannot say? Baylor really needs, in the now somewhat archaic phrase, to shut its pie hole.

  8. FYouMudFlaps says:

    So much hate and life wasted over something fake. I know that makes some uncomfortable but… all of the fairy tales are fake.

  9. theLaplaceDemon says:

    *really* bothered by all the “Why the hell did she go there?” and “I would be like fuck this shit” posts.

    Baylor’s policy is disgusting, and a lot of the responses from (presumably) current students and alumni on the Baylor online forums are disgusting. But I also don’t think Griner is stupid, and whether or not she would make the same choices if she did it again, I’m sure there were plenty of things in the plus column that made Baylor ultimately seem worth it to her when she committed. Everything I’ve read suggested that she had a good relationship with her teammates and a good relationship with Mulkey. I am not willing to speculate about the role Baylor’s horrible policy played in life, absent direct comments from Griner indicating what it was like.

    I respect her, and I respect that she made the best decision she could with the knowledge she had at the time.

  10. Fat Steve says:

    I don’t like the way the original ESPN article seems to scapegoat Coach Mulkey, headlining the piece “Brittney Griner Says Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey Told Players To Keep Quiet On Sexuality” as opposed to Caperton’s header of “Baylor told…”. They quote Griner’s comments about Mulkey, they talk about the school’s policies on ‘values’ but they don’t tie the two together. Caperton obviously saw the link, as evidenced by her quoting that part of the article up top in the OP, so why was it so hard for the journalist writing the story to do so?

    Griner only said that Mulkey was the one who advised her to keep quiet, which I find it hard to believe has nothing to do with the attitude of the school administration.

  11. MH says:

    I’m not sure why, but I’m not as outraged about this as I think I probably should be. I’m not sure if its because I’m a Christian, but I don’t think that’s it. I’m definitely progressive and vehemently disagree with much of the rhetoric around how private, Christian institutions should be allowed to implement basically any and every policy they want (regarding sexuality, birth control, etc.). I think maybe its because the article makes it sound like Griner isn’t overly worked up about it and because she probably went into the situation knowing what it was going to be like (and had options to go elsewhere) – plus she probably could have transferred after her first year if it turned out that it was a terrible experience. While this certainly isn’t the best news I’ve ever read – and I wish that more Christians (and large Christian organizations with lots of name recognition) would be more progressive, I think I’m just a really practical person. Griner doesn’t sound like she was super hurt by this – seems like she probably kept living her life the same way she always had. On top of that, it seems unlikely that many students would find themselves in a position where Baylor was the only place they could go. I don’t know…I’m going to have to think on this some more. I generally trust other progressives as good barometers, but I just am not super upset by this one. Maybe I’ve just read too much other news with worse outcomes today.

  12. theLaplaceDemon says:

    New piece on Griner from ESPN where she talks about growing up as a gender-nonconforming woman and the situation at Baylor:

    http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/9316697/owning-middle

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