Do women have to play with “the big boys” in order to REALLY prove their worth?
Our friend, ESPN analyst/columnist Jemele Hill, wrote an interesting piece on Brittney Griner and how her offer to become an NBA could be damaging not only to herself, but to women’s standards of success.
I have no doubt that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was sincere when he said he would draft Brittney Griner, or at the very least, perhaps invite her to play for Dallas’ summer league team in Las Vegas.
It would have been perfect if Griner had told Cuban to spend more time worrying about the Mavericks’ playoffs chances than her NBA possibilities.
But unfortunately that’s not how Griner responded. Instead, she tweeted to Cuban: “I would hold my own! Lets do it.”
My problem with Cuban’s offer has nothing to do with whether I believe Griner can play with men. The gap in physical strength would be a huge issue for her, just as her quickness and array of post moves might be an issue for some of the men she would play. I would imagine that Griner already has spent a good deal of her career playing against boys and men recreationally. But how she could fit in the NBA isn’t really the point.
What I don’t like about Cuban’s comments is that it perpetuates the dangerous idea that great female athletes need to validate themselves by competing against men.
Let’s not get it twisted, undoubtedly there are men who respect and admire female athletes, but there are also plenty that don’t. You know the type, the men that believe that women should be scrubbing pots, pans, and pushing out babies rather than working on their jumpers or learning the nuances of a 2-3 zone.
Griner doesn’t have anything to prove. But because of Cuban’s interest in her, it’s opened the door for people to talk more about what Griner can’t do, rather than appreciate what she can.
Once Cuban’s comments spread, it was open season on Griner. She’s too slow to play with men. She isn’t physical enough. She doesn’t have the athleticism.
It was like some people forgot that Griner was the Big 12’s three-time player of the year, four-time defensive player of the year, and a national player of the year. Everything she accomplished is being measured against professional male players, and that simply isn’t fair.
As the WNBA draft approaches, the conversation should be about how Griner’s college stardom can translate to professional success, and perhaps boost the WNBA to another level in popularity.
Now some unrealistic dreamers are wondering if Griner should forget the WNBA altogether and really give the NBA a shot, because of the endorsement and marketing potential.
Gotta love America, anything for a buck.
Griner wouldn’t be the first woman to choose to test herself against professional men’s players. In 1979, Ann Meyers signed a contract with the Pacers and tried out for the team. Even though she didn’t make an NBA roster, her efforts to play in the NBA never damaged her credibility.
That’s not how it would work today. If Griner flirted with the NBA and failed, it would do a lot more damage. There would be an obsession with her successes and failures. Every missed and made shot would be replayed repeatedly on TV and throughout social media. Could you imagine what life would be like for the man who dunked on her, or for any man whose shot she blocked or on whom she scored? One of the greatest players in women’s college basketball history would risk being relegated to being the punch line of far too many jokes. Or worse, considered a failure.
There is no question that Griner could gain much more exposure if she, say, decided to play in a few summer league games. But the NBA doesn’t need any more marketing help. The WNBA, however, desperately needs more players and personalities like Griner.
Jemele makes several good points on this issue, but what do you think? Should the appeal of marketing dollars and the primetime spotlight influence Brittney’s decision? Could her decision affect the psyche of young girls who look up to her?
Image via AP