Brittney Griner vs. LeGarrette Blount: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
As many of you undoubtedly know by now, freshman sensation Brittney Griner is a fantastic athlete. Not only has she resurrected the seldom-seen dunk in women's collegiate basketball, but she can also do it with relative ease.
Beyond that, she's averaging 19 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 6.1 blocks a game as a super-freshman who forced the mighty Volunteers of Tennessee to play zone—something that Pat Summitt is vehemently against.
The girl is a remarkable talent—and beyond that, she has endured the media attention she's received with soft-spoken grace and good humor.
This despite the fact that it's never easy being a big woman on the road in college sports.
As Wilt Chamberlain famously once said, "Nobody roots for Goliath"—and in women's sports, that altruism is probably even more succinct.
Judged as they are for differing physical attributes from men, large women must also endure the often-cruel assaults on their femininity—and in college basketball, it seems that the taunts of the "faithful" know no bounds.
People forget that Griner is just a teenage girl already self-conscious about her body image—and painfully aware that she isn't like all the other girls.
Beyond that, she's been treated rather roughly on the court—with most teams employing a "hack-a-Shaq" strategy any time she gets the ball close to the rim.
So in essence, Griner has endured quite a bit this season, but she has pushed back the right way—with her game. She's become a surefire All-American through her remarkable combination of size, athleticism, and skill.
She's pushed back the right way—that is, until recently.
After a hard foul in a recent game versus Texas Tech, Griner responded by throwing a haymaker at Tech's Jordan Barncastle that found its mark and broke her nose.
There can be no confusing the intent of the punch. There can be no confusing the violence with which it was thrown, and there can be no confusing the end result.
Griner absolutely tagged Barncastle in an act that fractured the girl's nasal cavity and might have her missing the rest of the season—although the verdict is still out on that.
And as of now, Griner has been suspended for one game while Baylor officials and the Big 12 decide how and if they should proceed further.
Her coach added another suspension—meaning she would be unavailable for the opening round of the Big 12 tournament.
Unfortunately for Griner, this isn't good enough.
Unfortunately for Griner, missing just the Big 12 tournament isn't good enough.
Unfortunately for Griner, she needs to sit for the rest of the year—and maybe a few games into her sophomore season, too.
In comparison with the other notable volatile act of the year—LeGarrette Blount's cheap shot on Byron Hout—Griner's shot was even worse.
Blount's shot targeted a larger man, who was in his face talking garbage after the game. His punch was a straight right—no windup—and did no permanent damage to its recipient.
Griner's shot was a hook to the face of a player who was called for a hard foul within the course of the game—and it broke that player's nose.
Now maybe we're splitting hairs here, but at the very least, they constitute the same infraction.
In response to the Blount incident, Oregon sent a very clear message, immediately suspending the running back for the remainder of the season. Although he was reinstated later in the year and allowed to play in the team's last two games, Blount missed 10 games of a 13-game season—or a little more than 75 percent of a year.
As the Baylor women will play at least 34 games this year—and possibly more—an equal, appropriate sentence for Griner ends up being in the 25-game range.
Thus there is absolutely no way she should be allowed to play in the postseason this year and should optimally be sitting for at least a few games in the early season next year.
The NCAA has made a concerted effort to make sure that men and women enjoy the opportunity to participate in collegiate athletics, and with that balance comes the same responsibilities: respect for that privilege, respect for your teammates, respect for your opponents, and respect for your school.
Brittney Griner failed miserably in all of those regards.
So what is Baylor waiting for?
To see what the Big 12 has to say?
Oregon Coach Chip Kelley took control of the Blount situation immediately, laying down the law before the Pac-10 had even considered the infraction.
By continuing to delay, Baylor comes across as not really caring so much—and hoping that its star athlete will be available for a postseason run.
So while it's easy to sympathize with Griner a little bit, and it's easy to acknowledge that tussles sometimes happen in athletics, the reality is that in organized sports, they simply can't happen like this.
And accountability demands that we treat like instances in a consistent fashion.
Accountability demands that violent women are treated with the same seriousness as violent men.
Accountability demands that LeGarrette Blount and Brittney Griner be treated the same.
Sorry, Brittney, but you need to be done for the year—and then some.
Anything short of this will set a terrible precedent in collegiate athletics and severely damage whatever credibility women's sports have fought for during these many years.
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