Women have made great advances over the years. However, one of the areas that is lacking in progress for women is professional sports. Female athletes continue to have difficulty gaining the same level of respect, adoration and consideration their male counterparts receive. Now, with the NBA draft approaching and the media’s spotlight in focus, all eyes have turned to 22-year-old Baylor Lady Bears center Brittney Griner.
Griner, a senior at the Waco, Texas, college, just received the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Ann Meyers-Drysdale Player of the Year award for the second year in a row and has solidified herself as the best female player in the NCAA. Griner made the news again last week when Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, announced he would “have no problem whatsoever” picking Griner during the second round of the draft.
Griner quickly responded to Cuban via Twitter, “So when do I show up for tryouts?” However, the choice is not all that simple. The Phoenix Mercury WNBA team won the first round lottery pick and plan on immediately choosing Griner as their first choice. Sport commentators have no doubt that Griner would be one of the best, if not the best, in the WNBA, something that Griner most certainly knows.
The opportunity for a woman to be picked for the men’s league is a rarity and is an opportunity that is difficult for the competitive and determined Griner to pass up. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of pressures on Griner, evident by remarks made from well-known basketball stars to Twitter users who shared their not-so-nuanced opinions.
While Griner could serve as a pioneer for women in professional basketball, some are fearful that Cuban’s announcement is merely a scam aimed at gaining attention and selling tickets. Griner is also not the first woman to be picked; in the past teams like the Utah Jazz have admittedly drafted female players for the sole purpose of publicity.
Even if Cuban’s invitation was sincere, another concern is how Griner will be treated once the shine and the initial excitement have worn off if she happens to make it. She will likely become an afterthought, or worse, a bench warmer.
Others have criticized Griner and say that she is not good enough to “hang with the boys” and her failure would open up the door for misogynists to pour in with their comments.
Griner is stuck in a difficult position and it is unfair that she has to prove herself to either people championing for her success or those waiting for her to fail. It is up to Griner to make the decision that she thinks will make her the most happy and satisfied and we should at least allow her to make the decision for herself.