Act Like a Lady, Play Like a Man?

Baylor's Brittney Griner (right) and Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike in Final Four(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Baylor's Brittney Griner (right) and Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike in Final Four(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Baylor University's women's basketball team just completed a dream season, blowing out Notre Dame to win the national title Tuesday and finish with a 40-0 record. As she's been throughout the season for the Lady Bears, star center Brittney Griner was dominant. She won the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award, complementing the Player of the Year honors she received earlier.


After Baylor's 80-61 victory, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was effusive in praising Griner, calling the 6-foot-8 junior the best post player she's ever seen. "I think she's one of a kind," McGraw said. "I think she's like a guy playing with women."

McGraw's intent wasn't to insult Griner, and the player didn't perceive it that way. "Definitely, I take it as a compliment," Griner said. But the coach's comparison caused a stir on social media because of the taunts Griner endures about her height and dominating play.

Her stature, deep voice and size 17 sneakers make her an object of scorn and ridicule among ignorant fans who question her gender. They suggest that Griner can't be a "real woman" — not the way she's built, the way she sounds and the way she plays. It's an age-old criticism launched against extraordinary female athletes whom mainstream society deems insufficiently feminine.

A day before the title game, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey lashed out at Griner's hecklers in opposing arenas and on the Internet. "This is someone's child," she said. "This is a human being. She didn't wake up and say 'Make me look like this, make me 6-foot-8 and have the ability to dunk.' This child is as precious as they come … The stuff she's had to read about, the stuff she's had to hear, the stuff people say about her, the stuff people write about her, it's got to stop. That stuff's got to stop."

Shame on the numbskulls who take McGraw's "like a guy" comment and use it with malicious intent. Unfortunately, hateful morons will always be among us. But the Notre Dame coach wanted no misunderstanding, issuing a statement on Twitter through a team spokesman: "I would hope that it was clear to those in attendance at Tuesday's press conference that my comments were meant to be complimentary, and in reference to her style of play and her dominance in our game, nothing more."

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan was also correct when she wrote, "The leaders of women's basketball would be wise to avoid comments like McGraw's. They serve no purpose other than to rev up nastier words and thoughts … " Nonetheless, McGraw's intent was absolutely clear — unless you're an idiot.


Towering several inches above her opponents, scoring against multiple hapless defenders, while blocking shots and snatching rebounds with ease, Griner is in another league. She seems to have an unfair advantage against the competition … like a guy playing with women.

Of course, the comparison works only if the guy is as tall, as strong and as skilled as Griner. But you get the picture.


Deron Snyder's Loose Ball column appears regularly on The Root. Follow him on Twitter and reach him at BlackDoor Ventures, Inc.