Britney Greiner’s story has always transcended sports. She is a true American pioneer | Basketball

TBritney Greiner’s photographs from April 17, 2013 are placing. It was the evening of the yr WNBA draft, and Greiner was continuing from ear to ear. For a number of months, everybody anticipated that she could be chosen first by Phoenix Mercury. However when WNBA Commissioner Laurel J. Ritchie referred to as Griner off the rostrum as the general high decide, there was a separate, nearly tangible expectation within the room.

As a result of at that second, Greiner grew to become probably the most outstanding homosexual basketball participant on the earth.

She all the time needed to be frank about her sexual orientation. It wasn’t actually about scheduling the reveal publicly, however reasonably, the query of when these in energy would get out of her method.

So on draft evening, the sports activities world watched as Britney hugged her dad Raymond, then walked onto the stage. She regarded higher than ever, in an ivory go well with with a satin end and an identical blazer beneath, a superbly tailor-made jacket. Pops of enjoyable argyle and nail socks featured shiny orange nail polish, a nod to her new group. search “graceless fearless“, The The 6-foot-9-inch Griner stood boldly within the highlight. It was the primary day of the remainder of her life.

In a brief TV interview solely moments later, she was nearly speechless, barely in need of breath. However then ESPN host Holly Rowe requested, “How are you seeking to play with extra freedom?”

Greiner replied directly: “I definitely stay up for freedom.”

Britney Greiner
Britney Greiner talks with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after Phoenix Mercury drafted her #1 in the course of the 2013 WNBA Draft in April 2013. Picture: Jesse de Garabrant/NBAE/Getty Pictures

BRitney Greiner spent practically 5 months unjustly detained In a Moscow jail. Arrested in February for “large-scale transportation” of hashish to Russia, she is on her solution to be a part of her group in Yekaterinburg, the place she has performed Euroleague since 2014, like many NBA gamers who earn the majority of their revenue in the course of the winters. Overseas.

Every week after Greiner’s arrest, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

Though a coordinated marketing campaign from the WNBA and The rising well-liked motion To demand her launch, there isn’t any finish in sight to Greiner’s arrest. her trial – thought-about”Sham“By many – it’s just the start. On July 7, she pleaded responsible in court docket, in all probability paving the best way To expedite political negotiations between the US and Russia for her launch. Regardless, specialists say Grenier’s trial will do Virtually certain to finish in conviction. It has turn out to be a human bargaining chip amidst a raging warfare, trapped in a maze Hostage diplomacy.

In the meantime, the American media usually did not seize the complete affect of Greiner’s achievements. As a result of her story has all the time been greater than basketball – extra vital than Olympic championships and gold medals.

It’s a story of confronting discrimination, breaking glass ceilings, and main radical change. It is the story of ladies’s basketball gamers throughout the US and the world, a narrative of homosexual folks enjoying the game, and a narrative that highlights why so many WNBA gamers proceed to demand the respect they honestly deserve.

That is the true story of Britney Greiner, the distinctive American pioneer on and off the sector.


Jriner was born in 1990. The WNBA got here into being in 1997, underneath the supervision and possession of the NBA. From the start, the affiliation labored exhausting to protect the picture of the other intercourse and conventional roles for girls. a 1998 The Washington Publish Story He highlighted a brand new clip within the WNBA Halftime Report, titled “Woman Discuss,” the place “younger followers name in to ask WNBA gamers questions on their mates or about how somebody can turn out to be a WNBA star.” To be a star on the court docket, within the ’90s, essentially additionally needed to have a “buddy” on the sidelines: comprise the specter of a sportswoman who may shoot herself.

The league saved a decent seal on its lesbian and bisexual gamers little damaged. For those who take a look at a file timetable From the WNBA, Cheryl Swoopes’ kick-off in 2005 was the one occasion of its type for 10 years, between 2002 and 2012. Till then, Swoopes Inform The New York Occasions, “5 years in the past, I in all probability would not have executed it [come out]. I used to be simply afraid of what sort of affect it could have, afraid of shedding the endorsement.” Solely at that time in her profession—when Swoopes received an Olympic gold medal and 4 WNBA championships and earned the NBA Participant of the 12 months award 3 times—did she have the emotional and monetary confidence to reside frankly as a stranger.

Rising up in Houston, Texas, Greiner usually felt confused by her variations. “I believe I began to really feel totally different when everybody began telling me I used to be,” she stated in her 2014 memoir. in my pores and skin. In center college, she was “flat and thin, my voice low.” The youngsters within the corridors mocked her, shouting insults, “She have to be a boy. She’s probably not a lady.”

The satire undermined Griner’s shallowness and left her in a “chaos of feelings.” However by the point she entered Nimitz Excessive Faculty as a 6-foot, 0-inch freshman, basketball had turn out to be a motivating power in her life. She used her measurement and tenacity on the court docket; The game gave her focus and suppleness. In 2007, a video clip of Greener Dong Posted on YouTube.

Within the fall of 2008, she arrived at Baylor College in Waco, Texas, the place she may be seen strolling lengthy distances throughout campus, joking at barbecues with mates, and dominating opponents on the basketball court docket along with her 88-inch wingspan and an unparalleled mixture of measurement and power. . As a junior, she led her group to a document 40-0 and 2012 NCAA Championship, making headlines dipping Alongside the best way.

However throughout her time at Baylor, Greiner additionally needed to preserve quiet about her true id. Someday, in the course of her sophomore season, she was referred to as into the workplace of her head coach, Kim Mulkey. As Greiner recounts in her memoirs, she had gone to a restaurant the evening earlier than to have dinner with one other girl on Valentine’s Day. Though their palms barely touched their desk, the letter returned to Mulke, who instructed Greiner that she was dissatisfied in her habits. “You may’t see you try this,” Mulki stated. “Massive woman, preserve it behind closed doorways.”

At the moment, Baylor had official coverage Within the scholar’s handbook prohibiting gay exercise and premarital intercourse on the whole. The varsity additionally banned “advocacy teams that promote an understanding of gender that goes towards the teachings of the Bible.” Consequently, Greiner’s freedom was curtailed by the identical establishment that had been serving to to advertise her within the public eye, bringing cash and a focus to Baylor. In her diary, she wrote, “I’ve spent lots of time questioning in the event that they assist the particular person Britney Grenier or simply the basketball participant Britney Grenier.”

Britney Greiner
Britney Greiner led Baylor College to an undefeated season and a nationwide championship in 2012. Picture: Justin Edmonds/Getty Pictures

IIt wasn’t that way back, actually: When Griner turned skilled in 2013, journalists had been obsessive about “Make a comic book test on the closet doorways in all skilled sports activities.” Even the WNBA continued its clumsy refusal to acknowledge its robust base of lesbian gamers and followers. Solely single participant Within the league, Simon Augustus was overtly homosexual.

After which, throughout what was imagined to be a routine an interview With Griner and two high draft picks — Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins — the Sports activities Illustrated reporter took the chance to lift the difficulty of sexuality in sports activities.

It wasn’t the best way her media was supposed to seem. However there was. With out hesitation, Greiner jumped in: “I’ve all the time been open about who I’m and my sexuality. If I can present that I am out and about and every thing is okay, then I hope the youthful technology will certainly really feel the identical method.”

Greiner was solely 22 years outdated, nonetheless in faculty, About to begin her profession. However she lacked the fearlessness that characterised so many ladies’s basketball video games on the time. And she or he did not again down.

In the identical week, she additionally refused to take part in WNBA Make-up Utility Session For newbies. And carrying it so artistic white night, Greiner did greater than problem gender norms; She has demonstrated the flexibility of gamers like her to drive change inside the league itself.

The WNBA had no alternative however to observe her. Solely a yr later, in 2014, he hosted the league for the primary time Nationally televised satisfaction recreationin Phoenix.

Britney Greiner
Britney Greiner led the Phoenix Mercury to its third all-time title in 2014 and a shocking return to the WNBA Finals final October. Picture: Stacy Revere/Getty Pictures

TThe story of gradual change within the WNBA is lengthy, winding, and sophisticated. However Brittney Griner embodies the spirit of at this time’s league, the place gamers love Layshia Clarendon, Maya Mor And the Natasha Cloud They grew to become champions for his or her out-of-court advocacy, making the WNBA Stand out for driving on problems with social justice.

Even at this time, the strongest criticism of the league comes from the gamers themselves. Many at the moment are main the decision for the WNBA to higher assist and elevate its black gamers, because the reigning MVP Jonquil Jones From the Connecticut Solar, which “deserves extra consideration than it obtained,” says Seattle Storm attacker, Brenna Stewart, the 2018 MVP.

“It is exhausting to be sitting at this desk, being your self, being black, being homosexual and being your self with out apology,” Solar guard Courtney Williams instructed ESPN reporter Katie Barnes. Aces protector Kelsey Bloom stated she had turn out to be so “dissatisfied” in regards to the league’s strategy to advertising that she banned the WNBA on social media. “I used to be getting preferential therapy as a result of I used to be straight and white,” Bloom instructed Barnes. “It is positively an issue in our league.”

And now the WNBA faces a brand new political problem: the wrongful arrest of Britney Grenier. As soon as once more, she is a one-of-a-kind heroine. However this time, she faces an array of notably horrific circumstances.

In circumstances of illegal arrest, there are authorized trials to not obtain justice however to offer a synthetic excuse for any politician The end result finest serves the calls for of the retained system. In Griner’s case, Russia’s calls for will probably embody a prisoner alternate – a probably disadvantageous final result for a lot of within the US authorities.

Over the subsequent few weeks, or presumably months, we’ll solely be selecting up fastidiously curated glimpses of Griner from Russian media. We’ll see her handcuffed to a guard, hunched over, wandering across the courtroom. However these footage, whereas grimly depicting her present state, distort the better reality.

Greiner has all the time had a deeper energy: her capacity not solely to outlive and thrive, however to make that concept appear doable to others.

What makes it so compelling now could be exactly the identical purpose it’s usually neglected in American society — and why it has held up as a helpful goal for Vladimir Putin, who has lengthy used anti-gay rhetoric and insurance policies with the intention to additional his political agenda. . On this method, Greiner and plenty of different gender-nonconforming blacks and homosexuals might spend their lives looking for freedom.

Now we are able to simply wait and see once you may discover him once more.

  • Maya Goldberg-Ambassador is a contract author and sound producer based mostly in Chicago. Sue Hovey is a Brooklyn-based editor, author, and filmmaker, and co-author of Britney Greiner in My Pores and skin.