It's apparently no accident former Baylor star Brittney Griner didn't publicly reveal she was gay until after her college career ended last month.
Griner told espnW that Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey requested players not be publicly open about their sexuality out of fear it would affect the perception of the program in the community and negatively impact recruiting.
"It was a recruiting thing," Griner told espnW. "The coaches thought that if it seemed like they condoned it, people wouldn't let their kids come play for Baylor.
"It was just kind of, like, one of those things, you know, just don't do it. They kind of tried to make it, like, 'Why put your business out on the street like that?'"
Griner casually acknowledged she was gay last month during a series of interviews with reporters leading up to the WNBA draft. The No. 1 overall pick of the Phoenix Mercury told reporters her friends and family had known she was gay since her freshman year of high school and it was an open secret among her Baylor coaches and teammates.
That Baylor would discourage gay players from publicly discussing their sexuality is a sad testament to the pervasiveness of homophobia in America and to the pressure on college coaches to win. Mulkey was apparently willing to ask players to hide part of their identity because she couldn't risk alienating a recruit or two who wouldn't be comfortable playing alongside openly gay teammates.
Of course, this issue is far from unique to Baylor in women's college basketball.
In 2007, longtime Penn State coach Rene Portland was forced to resign amid criticism over her longstanding policy that no lesbian would ever play on her team. A 2011 ESPN the Magazine article also revealed how Iowa State and other prominent programs would more subtly market themselves to straight recruits by selling themselves as "family-oriented" and "wholesome." Recruits interviewed in the story perceived the practice as a thinly veiled attack on programs led by unmarried female coaches.
It's a stain on women's college basketball that coaches will go to these lengths in their quest to get top players and that schools will tolerate it.
Hopefully, Griner's revelation can help publicize this issue and increase pressure on coaches not to negatively recruit based on sexual orientation. That way there will be far less reason for Mulkey or her peers ever to insist that players not openly discuss their sexuality again.
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