During a game last week, a college basketball player named Brittney Griner hauled off and punched an opponent in the face. Watching the highlight, there’s some physicality in the paint as both players seemed locked up while vying for position.
When they worked themselves apart Griner was obviously pulled awkwardly out of the paint by her much smaller opponent – but Brittney’s reaction was over the top and out of control. Griner was furious and slugged her outsized opponent with a hook, breaking her nose.
What was her penalty? Two games. This doesn’t necessarily seem noteworthy since sports like basketball are high energy and high pressure; tempers are bound to blow up once in a while. But the problem with the punishment is this – it’s sexist. And here’s why.
At the end of the first college football game between Oregon and Boise State last fall, a very similar incident happened. Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount was being taunted after his team’s loss, and punched the offending Boise State player in the face. His punishment? He was suspended for the entire season.
Where’s the equality? Was this punch any less dangerous? Was there more cause for her punch? Not from what I’ve seen. Is this how a school’s student-athlete representative ought to compose herself? Obviously not. Isn’t the disparity between these punishments blatantly sexist? Apparently the NCAA didn’t think so, but I think they have ulterior motives.
Here’s what I think is really going on. Brittney Griner has gained some notoriety in her sport because she can dunk like perhaps no other female basketball player before her.
She is 6’8”, can jump, and can throw down. She’s physically gifted and obviously a future star of women’s basketball. Is this why the punishment was so weak? Was she shown favoritism by the NCAA?
I’ve come to expect that sort of thing from professional leagues, particularly the NBA. I mean, if Lebron James punched a fellow player in the face, the other player would be suspended for ten games for flagrantly smashing Lebron’s fist with his eye socket. Maybe I’m being idealistic, but I expect more from the NCAA.
I realize that Brittney Griner is an up-and-coming star in women’s college basketball, but if that sport wants to have any credibility they can’t let this two-game punishment stand.
This sort of sexism may seem beneficial at the moment, but in the end it does nothing more than serve to marginalize female athletics.