Brittney Griner was a huge college star in women's basketball two years ago. Her dominance of the sport at 6-foot-8 was unquestioned -- she could dunk with ease, and she blocked more shots than anyone else in college basketball history, men or women. Her Baylor squad was the first team in college basketball history, men's or women's, to win 40 games in a single year.
Griner was drafted first overall in the WNBA. She also made headlines later in 2013 for coming out as a lesbian. Along with other athletes, like Jason Collins in the NBA, she was lauded by the press for being an "inspiration" to the gay community. Griner and Johnson announced their engagement last August and made an appearance on the TLC wedding-reality program "Say Yes to the Dress."
But what happens when the "inspiration" is arrested for domestic violence? The same news media that love the libertine narrative get very quiet.
On April 22, Griner and her girlfriend Glory Johnson (also a WNBA player) were arrested after police came to their new home after someone called and said they were throwing things at each other, and then could not be pulled apart. The first press reports said Griner had tooth marks in one hand; Johnson had a lacerated lip. Johnson's lawyer later gave records to Sports Illustrated claiming Johnson suffered from head trauma, a concussion and spinal trauma after being hit "on the back of her head by a hard carrying case."
The day after the arrest, The Washington Post published a blog -- not in the newspaper -- headlined "Brittney Griner, Glory Johnson and the WNBA's domestic violence problem; 'Intimate partner violence among LGBT couples is also a huge problem that gets considerably less attention,' according to a WNBA-watcher."
Despite the incident, Griner and Johnson were married on May 9. They were each suspended seven games by the WNBA. Obviously, the media didn't find this to be a small fraction as newsworthy as NFL star Ray Rice's domestic-violence incident. The NFL is a much larger business than the WNBA. Rice knocked his now-wife unconscious on video ... and Rice was male and heterosexual.
The closest the Griner fight came to prominence was a May 31 Washington Post story on the front of their sports section strangely headlined "Tough, But No Fighter." The Post story began with ooze: "An authentic American athlete has a fresh blotch on her bio, so it might help that she also has uncommonly sturdy innards."
Then the saga continued. On June 4, Johnson announced on Instagram that she was pregnant (with no mention of whether she was pregnant during the violence). Two days later, Griner announced she was seeking an annulment of their marriage after 28 days.
The networks have offered nothing on these developments, broadcast news or cable news. The Post and The New York Times offered a modicum of coverage. But USA Today was a complete joke. They could only rehash one Twitter message. Last August, they published a whole story headlined "For Griner, best still to come; Mercury star prolific on court, happy off it," discussing Griner's lesbian relationship and wedding plans.
On the top of the front a page of USA Today's Sports section on June 4 was a story headlined "Locker rooms full of gay slurs." A survey by gay activists to protest "homophobia in sports" drew more than 1,500 words and large color photos with the story continuing to take up an entire inside page.
The Griner story underlines one lesson. What serves the gay narrative is news. What hurts the gay narrative gets buried.