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Brittney Griner and Sports Culture

Brittney Griner

On Wednesday, Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft and one of the best female basketball players on the planet, came out of the closet, to the world at large anyway.

The world didn't end. The sun rose again. And Griner's career prospects are as bright as ever.

Now, imagine if the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft announced he was gay. Imagine if a Super Bowl champion announced he'd be taking his male partner to Disney World. Apocalypse, right?

Twenty years ago, absolutely. Today? Plenty of media coverage, with most of it likely favorable. Twenty years from now? It might receive a passing mention, or nothing at all. And if that comes to pass, if tolerance spreads across sports, it'll be people like Griner, who states her case for her identity with confidence and pride, who deserve credit.

"Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through," Griner told Sports Illustrated. "Don't hide who you really are."

Now, universal tolerance in sports is wonderful in theory. In practice, certain sports – the WNBA, figure skating, women's golf – are far more open and accepting of gay relationships than, say, the NFL or the NBA. Even as Griner came out, talk continues to swirl about whether certain NFL players may be gay, or whether gay players will need to come out en masse as a means of protection against what's possibly to be vicious backlash, from a segment of fans if not from within the NFL itself. Two sports, same year, different eras.

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