Last week, WNBA’s first overall draft pick Brittney Griner publicly came out as lesbian. “I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality,” she told Sports Illustrated. “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.” No big deal.
Yes big deal, actually.
For those who don’t know much about sports, Brittney was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four while playing for Baylor, and was selected No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Mercury. She’s one of only seven women in history to dunk during a college basketball game, and at 6’8”, stands two inches taller than Michael Jordan! Following in Jordan’s footsteps, Brittney recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
Although people can’t stop talking about what a phenomenal player Britney is, and rightfully so, the news of her coming out came and went faster than Kim Kardashian’s musical career. But imagine if a highly regarded male NBA or NFL player were to do the same. Chances are the media would drop all the sports talk and obsess over his sexuality. Brittney’s coming out is just as iconic and important as any other over the years — male or female. Yes, women’s basketball is seemingly more accepting of the gay community than, say, men’s football is; however, the fact remains that both sexes struggle with their sexuality and others’ acceptance (or lack thereof) on and off the court.
Celebrating — or at least acknowledging — Brittney’s coming out shows people in less accepting communities that they can be who they are, love who they love, and be loved in return. It also demonstrates the importance of supporting LGBT athletes in their everyday lives. While Brittney’s sexual preferences should never overshadow her accomplishments — because who one chooses to love has absolutely nothing to do with what he or she can achieve athletically, or in any field of work — we should at least show her the same love for coming out that we do every time she dunks a basketball.
“Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something,” Griner told Sports Illustrated. “If you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.” We love who you are, Brittney. Even if you can’t see us way down here.
In celebration of Brittney’s success and the progress she’s help build in the sports world, take action below to support LGBT athletes with the You Can Play Project.
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For 25 years, GLAAD has worked to amplify the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people