RG3 defends Brittney Griner, but misses a point

Eric Adelson
Yahoo! Sports

Robert Griffin III is one cool cat. Over the weekend, he was photographed chatting with President Obama, looking as if the leader of the free world was one of his pals from back home in Texas. Remember how classy the Redskins quarterback was when Rob Parker made his cornball comments? The poise with which Griffin handled his devastating knee injury in the playoffs was preternatural, and his doctor has hinted his recovery over the offseason has been supernatural.

Yet on Sunday night, or rather early Monday morning, RG3 lost it.

The proud Baylor grad couldn't restrain himself when he saw the beating taken by friend and former schoolmate Brittney Griner in the Lady Bears' shocking regional semifinal loss to Louisville.

For those who missed the game, Louisville came in as 24-point underdogs, in large part because of Griner's large advantage: She's 6-foot-8, one of the best women's players of all time, and the Cardinals have no one taller than 6-2. Louisville pulled the upset with a barrage of threes and a bombardment of physical play. Cards fans will say it was the only way to defend a much taller opponent. Griffin says it was something else. Take a look:

And …

And …

Over the course of an hour, Griffin fired off 12 tweets defending Griner. Good for him. She's been denigrated too much in message boards throughout her career, and there's still too much venom ("man jokes," in RG3's words) out there considering she's a Wilt-like figure in her sport. She deserves all the backers she can get.

And kudos to Griffin for putting a spotlight on the women's game. The more attention paid by high-profile athletes (including Kevin Durant, who was at the contest), the better. Punching a player in the abdomen (if it happened) would be a huge deal in the men's game, along with any other alleged MMA moves. So we should be talking about it if and when it happens in a game – men or women – especially when it's the defending national champions.

And finally, kudos to Griffin for sticking up for his school. There's nothing wrong with being a homer. (And by the way, he could have added a comment about how Louisville was borderline Jalen-Roseing Griner, crowding her so much that she could have landed awkwardly and twisted an ankle like Kobe Bryant did in Atlanta just a couple of weeks ago.

Yet in one sense, there's a flaw with Griffin's rant. He said Griner's "not SHAQ … she's a 6'8" WOMAN!"

The man jokes are inexcusable, but making the distinction that Griner is a "WOMAN" is unnecessary. What does that matter when it comes to how she's treated on the court?

The literal giants of the men's game, like Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal before him, get beat up every single night. Howard recently said members of the Heat were pulling on his injured shoulder from the opening tip of a Lakers' game in Miami. LeBron James got upset after his team's 27-game win streak ended in Chicago because Kirk Hinrich was all-but-tackling him in the paint. Those are basketball crimes, done to a basketball player. It's no better or worse if it's done to Griner or any other woman on the court.

Griffin said Griner is "not Shaq," but she is Shaq. She's exactly what Shaq was, in the most praiseworthy sense of the comparison. She's elevated her game to such a level that she's forced opponents to treat her just as NBA teams treated Shaq when he was the most indomitable force in the game. So that's the one tweet that didn't ring true (though the sideswipe of the NCAA was hilarious).

Argue that it's a double standard against bigs, or argue that a star should get star treatment, or heck, argue that the refs need to watch out for cheap shots as closely in basketball as they do when a star quarterback is left vulnerable in the pocket. On those counts, Griffin has a point. Lamenting that Griner should get a break because she's a woman? Sorry, Griner doesn't need that kind of protection.

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