Ex-Baylor star Brittney Griner likes to remind all the girls and young women who idolize her to just be themselves and not worry what others think.
Griner was doing just that this week while discussing her sexual orientation, apparently for the first time with the media. The new member of the Phoenix Mercury, chosen No. 1 overall in Monday's WNBA, did not make a big deal about the fact that she is a lesbian, making no big coming-out announcement.
But she did not hide from the topic either when it was pertinent to the issues being discussed.
In a pre-draft interview with USA Today on Monday, Griner brought it up herself while crediting her parents for always encouraging her to be herself no matter what cruel things people were saying about her.
"My parents didn't know at the time," she said. "I hadn't come out completely. It was kind of like, YOU KNOW … I just hadn't said it. My dad and my mom have always told me, 'Be who you are.' At the time, they probably weren't sure what I was interpreting that as."
During an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, she discussed it in the context of being bullied as a child.
“It was hard, just being picked on for being different, just being bigger, my sexuality, everything,” she said. “I overcame it and got over it. Definitely something that I am very passionate about. I want to work with kids and bring recognition to the problem, especially with the LGBT community.”
Also on Wednesday, Griner and fellow recent WNBA draftees Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins were interviewed by Sports Illustrated's Maggie Gray, who asked why it's more accepted to be a gay athlete in women's sports than men's.
"I really couldn't give an answer on why that's so different. Being one that's out, it's just being who you are," Griner said. "Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don't hide who you really are."
Gray then asked Griner if her status as a famous athlete made it any more difficult to come out.
"It really wasn't too difficult, I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that," Griner said. "I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn't hard at all. If I can show that I'm out and I'm fine and everything's OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way."
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