Griner-Johnson case brings same-sex violence into the spotlight

It’s been a little over 12 hours since the news of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner and Tulsa Shock forward Glory Johnson’s arrests for domestic violence broke. There’s been no outcry against women, women’s sports or the WNBA because of it. I haven’t been able to find any homophobic statements on the Internet. Those with vested interests weren’t fretting with one another about the impact the incident would have on the game.

In fact, the reaction to what happened last night in a Phoenix suburb between two of the faces of the league has been pretty ho-hum. Are we that accustomed to professional athletes being involved in domestic or other violence? Maybe.

There was Baltimore Raven Ray Rice punching his wife out in an elevator last year. Two weeks ago, NBA players were involved in a stabbing at a New York City night club. Phoenix Suns twin brothers have been charged with felony assault.

Arizona Republic reporter Paola Boivin says the Griner-Johnson sheds light on a long-taboo subject:

When all is pled and done, this could turn out to be the greatest assist of Brittney Griner’s career.

Reports on Thursday that the Mercury star and her fiancée were arrested on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct shed light on an issue that has been ignored by sports leagues, avoided by media and mocked by fans: same-sex domestic violence.

This period of hyper-sensitivity toward abuse issues is a good thing. It might not feel that way to Griner and her partner, Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock, but the long, Title IX-fueled journey for equal opportunity must also include equal coverage of tough storylines……

It’s a real concern. A 2014 survey by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with same-sex partners experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes, numbers significantly higher than opposite-sex relationships…….

The WNBA should be proactive in educating players about abusive relationships and the resources available to them.

The league is unique in that it has had more athletes be open about their same-sex relationships. It should be at the forefront of discussion, too.

The WNBA, like most professional leagues, has been more reactive than proactive in addressing impactful issues.

It could learn a lot from the NFL, both good and bad…….

t is not just the league that bears responsibility to trigger change.

The media has under-reported stories of same-sex domestic violence. “Why” is a complicated question. Is it because same-sex relationships are still a hot-button issue for some? Is it because of fear of casting a negative light on women who are still battling equal-opportunity issues?

Tulsa World columnist John Klein made similar statements:

Now, Griner and Johnson will be central to the discussion of domestic violence among same-sex couples and how sports leagues deal with the issue.

Indeed.

The WNBA has been silent on the issue today. We are all waiting to see what they will do in this unprecedented case.

I agree with Boivin that the league should educate players about abuse and abusive relationships. It may seem quick to the WNBA, which began courting their gay and lesbian fans in earnest only last summer. But it’s time. What it’s not time for is burying heads in the sand. A strong, reality-based response is the best response.

If there are player suspensions, so be it. But there should also be a platform to address the issue of domestic violence – same-sex and opposite-sex. The WNBA has a chance to be a leader here.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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