After years of speculation about her sexuality, Brittney Griner -- the first pick in the WNBA draft and all-around game changer for women’s hoops -- casually told SI.com that she is gay. "It really wasn't too difficult. I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that," Griner said. “I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality, so it wasn't hard at all."
Given that there are numerous openly gay players in the league, the reaction to Griner's comment was muted.
But for administrators at Baylor, it could not have been a welcome announcement. Griner's alma mater identifies itself as a Christian university, and it has a long history and school policy against homosexuality. Its student handbook says that even advocacy of homosexual behavior is against its policy:
"The University affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. 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."
Griner brought a national championship to Baylor as well as revenue and media coverage because of her star status -- she won the 2012 ESPY Award for best female athlete -- so it is doubtful she would face anything but public silence or support from the administration. Her coach, Kim Mulkey, while noting that her star player had stood up to horrible taunting while playing, professed ignorance of any of her players' relationships when asked about Griner's sexuality in March.
Mark Osler, a former Baylor professor who has spoken out against the school policies on gays, sees this as a double standard, and one that Griner's announcement could help overturn.
"She's not just any student," Osler told ThePostGame. "Next to RGIII, she is the most visible Baylor athlete in the world. She won a lot of games for them. Without her, they would not be nearly the team they have been. So yes, [I think] they are glad to have her be their gay superstar. I doubt they would be so supportive if she was a ... gay woman with no other supreme talents."
Osler says maybe it's time that the school revise its thinking -- especially on a campus full of what he said are conscious and caring students that generally do not agree with the policy.
"As a lawyer and law professor, I believe rules matter," Osler said. "And if the idea about tolerance and understanding of people like Brittney Griner has changed ... it's time to change that rule as well."
Baylor did not respond to a request from The PostGame for comment.
For gay athletes and students at Baylor before Griner, coming out had much bigger consequences. In 2007, Emily Nkosi left the team and transferred because of her decision to come out. She told USA Today that Baylor operated on a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy and she feared losing her scholarship -- despite having been a strong contributor on the national championship team in 2005. (Baylor, for its part, denied to the paper that she would have lost the scholarship for coming out.)
Contacted by ThePostGame about Griner's announcement, Nkosi is hopeful that it can be the start of a new era.
"Do I think it could change?" Nkosi said of the official school policy. "Absolutely I think there are changes all over the world happening every day ... we've seen all sorts of minorities gain more respect and acknowledgement both socially and legally, so I have no doubt the potential to create an amazingly acceptable environment is possible."
Nkosi also said such a change would have significant after-effects.
"It impacts the third grader whose wearing the Brittney Griner jersey and coming to watch her play is trying to build her world view," she said. "That kid, whether she turns out to be gay or not, is trying to figure out what it means to be a person in the world and those things impact her."
When asked if she thought Mulkey and the Baylor athletic department were operating under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with Griner, Nkosi said she hopes one day for that not to be a relevant question.
"I will say Coach Mulkey is a fantastic basketball coach on the court and the issues that directly impact the performance of our athletes she is heavily involved but it was not my experience that she is involved in every player's life," Nkosi said. "At the end of the day I think it's less important if people did or didn't know -- I think it's more important why people had to even speculate."
Four years after Nkosi left, some students said that the school wasn't enforcing the official policy, but others told the campus newspaper, the Baylor Lariat, that many are still fearful to be open about their sexuality.
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