In separate interviews today, Brittney Griner, the number-one overall pick in this week’s WNBA draft, came out about having been out. While she’s not the first female athlete to be open publicly about her sexuality, the 6-foot-8, three time All-American center is by far the most high-profile athlete to do so.
This is a huge step for professional sports as momentum continues to build towards gay athletes—especially in the NFL—coming out.
Griner was part of a panel that included Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins—the numbers two and three picks in the draft—with Sports Illustrated today, and was asked by host Maggie Gray about the growing attention being given to sexuality in sports, and why she thinks it’s more acceptable for athletes to come out in women’s sports than men’s.
“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different,” Griner said. “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.”
Griner said coming out wasn’t too difficult a decision for her to make.
“I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that,” she said. “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.”
In her interview with the Associated Press, Griner talked about growing up and being picked on for being different.
“I overcame it and got over it,” she said. “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.”
Griner’s comments come at a time when many—namely former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo—have shown strong support for gay rights and said they would be more than welcoming to any athlete who made the decision to come out.
That reality—one of a player being openly out—may be closer than most expect, especially after reading Mike Freeman’s report on CBSSports.com today. Freeman sheds a small amount of light on one (unnamed) NFL team that had at least one gay player, and—get ready for the breaking, shocking, earth-shattering news!!—no one on the team cared, they didn’t shun the individual, and none of them felt uneasy or thought that player was any less “macho.”
“I was the worst kept secret on the team,” one anonymous player told the site. “Many of us knew and we didn’t care. We saw him as a player, not a gay player.”
I’d like to see a public outing happen sooner rather than later, so that this nonstory can finally be put to bed. The times we live in are far different than they were 30, 10, and even five years ago. Our society is (or at least ought to be) more accepting than when our parents and parents’ parents grew up. The LGBT community shouldn’t need a Jackie Robinson, but when that one individual (or group of individuals) decides the time is right to make their sexual preferences known, they will rightfully be seen in the same light.