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Brice Cherry: Griner’s estrangement from Baylor not justified

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Tribune-Herald file photo

Excerpts released last week from Brittney Griner's upcoming new book “In My Skin” were critical of Baylor.


No matter what the sonnets say, unrequited love is not the most painful emotion one can experience. No, what truly cuts to the bone is when the one you love takes your feelings and tramples all over them — in public. That’s an ache not easily soothed.

Therein lies the sad reality of the once seemingly unbreakable bond between Brittney Griner and Baylor.

Last week when Griner released excerpts from her upcoming new book “In My Skin” that were critical of Baylor, many Lady Bear fans reacted with disappointment and anger. They had every right to feel like the jilted lover.

Because, make no mistake, few Baylor students in the history of the university were showered with more love than Brittney Griner.

A few weeks after her senior season abruptly ended with a Sweet 16 loss to Louisville last year, Griner publicly came out in an interview with espnW. To a lot of Baylor fans, this wasn’t shocking news.

What raised more eyebrows was the way she characterized Baylor as a place of intolerance, a charge she reiterates in the book.

“I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it’s hard to do that,” Griner writes. “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 doesn’t erase all the pain I felt there.”

I don’t doubt that Griner believes this. I do question whether she has a reason to feel this way.

During her four years in Waco, Baylor always had Griner’s back. Baylor’s administration, coaches and fans stuck up for her when the rest of the world wouldn’t.

In the wake of Griner’s snap-decision punch of Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle her freshman year, she was vilified by some media and fans as a loose cannon, a rage monster. She wasn’t that character at all, and Baylor officials beat the drum at every turn to make that message known.

Baylor defended Griner over the rough treatment she sometimes received in Big 12 road arenas. Trust me, I was in many of those arenas, and there was no shortage of vile, nasty comments spewed from the stands, including remarks questioning Griner’s sexuality and gender. As much as possible, Baylor officials sought to shield Griner from such abuse.

But Baylor didn’t just defend Griner — it embraced her. It wrapped its arms around her, Bear-hug style, and didn’t let go. Fans turned out in droves to watch her warm up, much less play. Legions of pint-sized, pony-tailed future ballers wore her No. 42 jersey. She became a fixture in Waco, as ubiquitous as Dr Pepper, and fans still approached her for autographs and photo ops everywhere she went.

And she went everywhere. Renowned for her fun-loving, larger-than-life personality, Griner poured herself into campus life. She long-boarded all over campus. She attended parties. She formed a tight-knit group of friends outside of the basketball team. She certainly wasn’t hiding. One never would have gotten the impression that she was mistreated at Baylor, because the simple fact is that she was treated like a queen.

Now, as it pertains to the university’s official, much-publicized stance on homosexuality, it must be stressed that Baylor is a Christian school founded on biblical principles. So what Griner is really saying is that she doesn’t like what the Bible has to say on the topic. In my view, Baylor should be applauded, not condemned, for sticking to those principles, whether the mainstream culture considers them popular or not.

Unconditional love does not equal total agreement. Do you get that? We don’t all have to agree to love one another. We don’t have to all go along to get along. It’s also, believe it or not, possible to disagree without judgment or hatred.

Unfortunately, many who promote the gay agenda don’t tolerate that idea.

Baylor was a choice

As a lesbian, Griner doesn’t agree with Baylor’s official stance on homosexuality. OK, but the school has held that position for decades. If it was such an issue, why sign with Baylor in the first place?

Furthermore, for Griner to intimate that because of Baylor’s school policy she was treated like a second-class citizen is disingenuous at best. It feels a little like a ploy to sell books. However, the irony is that, by making those remarks, Griner has alienated a sizeable chunk of her book-buying audience.

In another excerpt from Griner’s book that has gained traction in the media, she talks about how she and coach Kim Mulkey “underperformed” in the loss to Louisville. That statement reads more pointless than controversial. Did Mulkey get outcoached that day? Did Griner get outplayed? Probably. It happens. You can’t be better than everyone every day of your life. More than anything, Baylor got outshot in that game, by a Louisville team that had no conscience from the 3-point line. The Cardinals shot from everywhere — and made loads of them.

But know this: Mulkey was as protective of Griner as a mother bear during the center’s four years at Baylor. She challenged her to become a better player, but was also effusive in her praise. I never once got the impression that Mulkey wanted anything but the best for her star player.

So I imagine that Kim, like much of “Baylor Nation,” hurts when she reads Griner’s words. (A Baylor official told reporters last week that Mulkey wouldn’t answer any questions about Griner and the book).

Just as it’s not fair to judge a book by its cover, it may be jumping the gun to judge one by its excerpts, too. Perhaps Griner’s autobiography highlights some of the good about Baylor, too. Perhaps it will illustrate some of the adulation she experienced, the warmth, the way Lady Bear fans embraced her. People will have to wait until April 8, the book’s release date, to find out.

But it will have to read like quite the romance novel to repair the severed relationship between BG and the school that once loved her so deeply.

1 image

Tribune-Herald file photo

Excerpts released last week from Brittney Griner's upcoming new book “In My Skin” were critical of Baylor.