The Baylor Lady Bears made a remarkable run in the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, plowing through traditional powers Tennessee and Duke on their way to the Final Four. Last Sunday Baylor’s run ended as they lost to the streaking Connecticut Huskies, who finished the season undefeated, adding another national title, and stretching their unprecedented win-streak to 78 straight games. However, the Lady Bears’ remarkable run should never have happened because of an incident that occurred back on March 3.
That incident involved Baylor’s best player, center Brittney Griner, and Texas Tech forward Jordan Barncastle. In a heated battle for post position, Brancastle flung Griner and was accurately called for a foul, yet the 6’8 Griner didn’t think that was enough. Griner took two steps toward Barncastle, who had already turned away, and blindsided the 6’2 Texas Tech forward with a right hook to the face. Griner’s haymaker broke Barncastle’s nose and earned her an ejection from the game along with a two-game suspension (full video here).
But the punishment Griner received didn’t remotely fit the crime. In a world that preaches equality, Griner received a much lighter sentence than she would have if she were a male athlete. One can merely look at Oregon RB LaGarette Blount’s suspension following his punch of a Boise State player back in early September.
Blount was picked apart for his punch by analysts across the country who demanded that he never play college football again. Blount was initially suspended for the season, but he was eventually reinstated after eight games. However, Blount didn’t play in his first game back, making it nine games of competition that he missed because of his altercation. To put it into perspective, Blount’s punch cost him 69 percent (9 of 13 games) of his season while Griner’s punch has cost her just 5.4 percent (2 of 37 games) of hers.
One could argue that despite the reduced punishment, Griner’s punch was actually worse that Blount’s because it happened during game action. Yet Griner’s strike was downplayed by many of the talking heads as a mistake, her head coach came out and said what a great girl she is and how she just let the frustrations from the season overtake her in that moment, and the Big 12 commissioner “commended” Baylor for “taking strong action.” So why was Griner spared while Blount was nearly crucified?
The only difference between the two incidents is the sex of the athlete assaulter. The fact that Griner was allowed to compete in a Final Four game for a chance to send Baylor to the women’s NCAA Championship game just a month after her punch is an outrage. The fact that many have overlooked this incident and merely written it off as a simple mistake is just as wrong. Griner attacked another person, an act that would have garnered police intervention would it have happened in an alley way instead of a basketball court. Are we meant to look the other way because we are told that she is really a good person?
The NCAA and the Big 12 may want us to applaud Baylor, but to do so is an insult to the integrity of athletics. The vicious blow Griner delivered deserved to be a bigger issue than this. If Griner had been suspended for the rest of the season, the Lady Bears would likely not have gotten past the Tennessee Volunteers in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Baylor reached the Final Four and got an opportunity to end Connecticut’s historic winning streak and contend for a National Championship, two things that should never have happened. So please, no more talk about equality in sports, because the NCAA has made it quite clear that equality is dead.