Opinion: Brittney Griner sheds light on the double standard within sports


Credit: Bella Schreiber

WSPN’s Bella Schreiber discusses double standards surrounding Brittney Griner’s imprisonment in Russia.

Bella Schreiber

On Feb. 17, 2022, WNBA player Brittney Griner was detained in Russia and will stay there until at least June 18, 2022. It took me almost four months, nearly up to her potential release date, before I was even aware of the fact that Griner had been whisked away without definite knowledge of when she would return.

Griner has played for the Phoenix Mercury and obtained numerous awards, as well as being a valued member of Team USA’s 2016 gold medal team during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Griner has been a WNBA all-star six times in her career, as well as two time Defensive Player of the Year. Based on all of this and more, I would rank Griner as a very good player and valuable addition to the WNBA and Phoenix Mercury.

So why is it not major news that she has been taken for so long? Why hasn’t there been Instagram post after Instagram post dictating what is happening and how we can help?

There are most likely only two main reasons why my feed is being neglected of this crucial piece of news. One, I need to look a little harder for upcoming news. Important information doesn’t always just fall into our laps and it is our job to dig for it sometimes. If I were a little more involved in the sports world, I probably would have at least heard of Griner’s issues and maybe would have found that there were a handful of people sharing her story to try to help.

Unfortunately, although that could be part of it, the most plausible case is double standards between women’s and men’s sports. A harsh reality I have grown to realize is that in the sports world, no matter how good a woman is at her respective sport, she will most likely never get the recognition she deserves.

This isn’t about a secret hatred for men’s sports because personally, I love sitting down to watch the Celtics battle through a hard game. But instead, this is about how I can say with almost 100% certainty that if someone like LeBron James was in this exact same situation, the world, or at least the United States, would have gone into mayhem.

Both Griner and James are arguably some of the best players in their respective leagues, as well as both being in professional NBA leagues. The only major difference between the two players is that Griner plays for the WNBA.

I understand that because of today’s society, James will always be considered the “better player” and get paid a significant amount more than Griner. The issue I have is that the vast majority of people don’t even give women’s sports a chance. People have deep rooted misogynistic ideas that tell them you won’t enjoy women’s sports. This is often attributed to the fact that they usually aren’t as big and strong as men.

Scientifically, this is true. Women tend to be on the smaller side compared to men, as well as being not as strong as men. Though this does not mean that the women who do professional sports are inherently small or weak. Because all the women have the same biological advantages, it is an even playing field for all and simply looks like a bunch of very talented people competing. It’s not fair for young girls looking up to female athletes, or to the athletes themselves, to be judging before even giving female sports a chance. It shouldn’t be assumed that the men will provide more entertainment and talent for viewers to enjoy, when you could even end up liking women’s sports more than men’s sports.

Growing up, I had two older brothers who were constantly playing or watching sports and had their own athletes to look up to. I quickly learned that although my brothers could watch and talk about their role model athletes with ease, I didn’t really have any strong female athletes to model myself after. In the end, it’s my own fault for not trying to engage with more women’s sports, but it felt nearly impossible to confidently talk about enjoying women’s sports without being told that “men are so much better” and that I should watch “more entertaining” sports.

These words and beliefs have been ingrained and forced into society’s mind year after year, creating countless young girls who give up on their talent from a young age. It’s disheartening to see so many young girls growing up who believe that just because they are a girl, they can’t ever be as good as their brothers or friends.

In order to take a step in erasing the double standards instilled in sports and so much more, it might be easiest to start by just giving women’s sports a chance. Watch a WNBA game, stay updated on news related to male and female athletes and begin to understand that just because one thing is good, doesn’t mean something else can’t be. You can still enjoy your favorite men’s team while also keeping up to date on a women’s team. There are no limitations or minimums for the effort you have to put in, but if we all start somewhere we will begin to tear down these deep-rooted double standards.

When even a quick Instagram story is posted throughout accounts when something like what is going on with Griner happens, we can take steps in the right direction. I urge anyone reading this to try their best to break down these societal rules we have created in whatever way they can. Post about women’s sports. Try watching a WNBA game instead of an NBA game one night. It’s not much, but with everyone working together we can fix the negative mindset we put on women’s sports and instead, celebrate both hard working female and male athletes.