It has been 221 days since Brittney Griner was initially detained in Russia, and in that time Kim Mulkey, the coach she won a national title for at Baylor, has not said anything about it. That continued on Monday, when she formally declined any comment, dismissing a question about Griner when talking to reporters at her first preseason practice of the year.
Mulkey, who took the head women's basketball job at LSU last year, was asked a two-part question by The Daily Advertiser's Cory Diaz. The second question was about Griner.
"I just want to get your thoughts on the Brittney Griner situation," Diaz said. "I don't think I've seen anything from you on that and just —"
"And you won't," Mulkey said. "I'll answer the first one for ya."
Griner, who turns 32 next month, played for Mulkey at Baylor from 2009-13. During Griner's junior year, the Bears went 40-0 to win the national championship. Griner was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, as well as earning AP Player of the Year and the Wade Trophy Player of the Year. She also won the Wade in 2013 before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Mercury, with whom she's spent her entire WNBA career.
Mulkey and Griner had a falling out nearly a decade ago, and the star's relationship with Baylor has been strained. Months before she was detained, Griner told ESPN she hoped to have a better relationship with her alma mater and see her jersey retired there one day.
Griner, who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested on Feb. 17 at Moscow airport for bringing cannabis into Russia, authorities there said. She pleaded guilty to drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent for 0.702 grams of hashish oil, which she said she had for medicinal reasons. Russian authorities gave her nearly the maximum sentence of nine years in a penal colony. The U.S. government is working on a deal for her release as well as that of fellow American prisoner Paul Whelan.
Griner's relationship with Mulkey, Baylor
Mulkey's silence on Griner's detainment and recent sentencing has been noted widely in college basketball circles. The basketball world has spoken out about the situation at each major moment, including last month, when she was convicted and sentenced. Most have at least said they hope Griner is safe and able to come home to the U.S. soon.
Just Women's Sports reached out to Mulkey and LSU that day, but neither provided a statement. It was an emotional day in the WNBA, even though the sentence was expected and viewed as the necessary next step for the U.S. government to negotiate her release.
Griner and Mulkey have had a strained relationship since the player's final days at the school. In a huge moment for the time, Griner publicly said she was gay ahead of the 2013 WNBA draft. She told reporters that she was encouraged to keep quiet about her sexuality while at Baylor, a private Baptist university in Texas. Griner also addressed it in her 2014 book, "In My Skin." She said it was not meant to be a shot at Mulkey, but instead a remark about the culture and community at Baylor collectively.
The school includes in its student handbook a policy that sex should be confined to heterosexual marriage. It passed a resolution in May to commit to providing support for all students no matter their "sexual orientation or gender identity." It still noted that "sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage" should not happen.
Baylor comments on Griner
Baylor has also been criticized for its scant comments. After Griner's conviction, it issued a statement to Just Women's Sports, a stark contrast to entities that released statements on their own social accounts.
“With the unsettling news of the verdict and sentencing of Brittney Griner, we continue to pray for her ongoing strength and safety throughout her detainment," Baylor said in the statement. "We recognize the extraordinary complexity of this situation, yet we remain hopeful of the day she will again set foot on U.S. ground.”
News first broke of Griner's detainment on March 5. Baylor released a statement that day calling it "alarming" and adding that their "thoughts and prayers are with BG and her family." It did not say or release anything between then and her sentencing on Aug. 5.
The Baylor Athletics Twitter account shared a video and called for Griner to come home on July 8, but it was not shared by the university's main accounts.
By contrast, Nicki Collen, the former Atlanta Dream coach who took over for Mulkey at Baylor, has tweeted many times about Griner, shared a petition in May to bring her home and spoke extensively about her on Monday.
Nicki Collen was asked about Brittney Griner and she spoke about her for just under 5 minutes.
This comes on the same day that @ByCoryDiaz asked Kim Mulkey about the situation and there was no comment. #Baylor | #SicEm | @KCENSports pic.twitter.com/C9wzFGN4fF
— Matt Lively (@mattblively) September 26, 2022
"I just think about what it would be like to be away from my family for over 200 days," Collen said, spending five minutes on the subject with reporters. "I think this is a humanitarian thing. We can argue about whether what she did is grounds for a trade for an arms dealer. I think there are a lot of arguments in play. I think what isn't in play, in my mind, is that we shouldn't be doing everything in our power to get Brittney home."
Former Baylor players speak out after Mulkey's comments
A player that built Baylor, 2 national titles, & a 40-0 record. Yet her former coach refuses to say anything or simply just show any kind of support. Keep that in mind when you’re choosing schools.
— Queen (@QueenEgbo_) September 26, 2022
And I will say it again. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES, smh.
— Chloe Jackson (@Clj_0) September 26, 2022