BY CANDY PARKER
WNBA star Brittney Griner had reservations about attending Baylor University. The highly recruited phenom had come out early in high school and was concerned about how she would be received at the Baptist school. But during the recruiting process her future coach Kim Mulkey told her, “You can be black, white, blue, purple, whatever. As long as you come here and do what you need to do and hoop, I don’t care.” According to Griner’s new memoir, that wasn’t exactly the case.
In “Under My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court,” Griner describes her discomfort with the university’s anti-gay policies.
“I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it’s hard to do that it’s hard to stand up and say, ‘Baylor is the best!’ when the administration has a written policy against homosexuality. I’ve spent too much of my life being made to feel like there’s something wrong with me. And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn’t erase all the pain I felt there.”
In the memoir, published April 8, Griner talks about the school’s policies, recalling her frustration at not being able to kiss her girlfriend in public without it getting back to Mulkey. Griner says her coach made it clear that she needed to keep her sexuality out of the public eye.
“The more I think about it, the more I feel like the people who run the school want it both ways: they want to keep the policy, so they can keep selling themselves as a Christian university, but they are more than happy to benefit from the success of their gay athletes. That is, as long as those gay athletes don’t talk about being gay,” said Griner in “Under My Skin.”
In a 2013 interview with ESPN, the record-setting hoopster said she never considered asking Mulkey if it would be alright for her to come out while at Baylor.
“I already knew the answer,” she told ESPN in May 2013. “I didn’t want to hear ‘No.’ It was a recruiting thing. The coaches thought if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn’t let their kids play for Baylor.”
Griner came out publicly in April 2013 in a story in USA Today.
Griner was a standout at Baylor, leading the Lady Bears to a perfect 40-0 season in 2011-2012 and setting an all-time record for blocked shots during her college career. Despite being made to feel out of place at the university, Griner is balanced in her expressing her experience while at the school and says, even knowing all she knows now, she would still choose to attend Baylor.
The Phoenix Mercury superstar also addresses rumors which circulated after she withdrew her name from consideration for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the book. In removing herself from consideration, she cited a family illness (her mother was diagnosed with lupus) and a pressing summer school schedule. Critics speculated that the 6’8″ dunking center feared the gender testing that would go along with Olympic play.
“I have every intention of playing for the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, if I’m selected for the team. And if some country wants to issue a challenge, bring it on. I don’t have anything to hide. I’ll do whatever I need to do, prove whatever point I need to prove, so I can play. And then maybe everyone will finally shut up.”
Griner is one of 33 players in the 2014-16 USA Basketball national team pool, 12 of whom will be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.