Only 20 People Came To University Church Celebration For Brittney Griner | Why The Waco Shade?

Brittney Griner celebration low turnout of 20 people
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A celebration for Brittney Griner was held on Monday at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, just a few miles from her alma mater, Baylor University, but only 20 people showed up.

How Come Only 20 People Showed Up For Brittney Griner Celebration? 

So why didn’t anyone come? Griner’s lifestyle as an openly gay woman in a town that holds onto “traditional” Christian values could have caused the lack of participation. Additionally, she was arrested in Russia for having cannabis vape cartridges in her bag and was released before other American prisoners who have served and have been wrongfully detained longer. One more thing: she is Black.

Who Is Brittney Griner? 

“It’s a bit of a trifecta,” University Baptist Church member Sharyl West Loeung said to ESPN about Griner being Black, gay, and arrested in Russia on drug charges. “And then you throw in the fact, it’s an apples-and-oranges situation, but there are people who are upset that there was a former Marine who was not brought home and she was.”

Griner is a Baylor legend. She has won six Big 12 titles, four NCAA Tournament trips, an NCAA Championship, and two Final Four appearances. Her student-athlete days were full of high-level personal stats, and she became a star that eventually made it to the WNBA. Still, her personal choices didn’t resonate with the tone that Baylor wanted to maintain.

Baylor University is the largest private Baptist Christian research university in the world. Although she is a player who in her junior year averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 5.2 blocked shots making Baylor the first team in NCAA women’s history to finish 40-0, she was advised to mute her sexuality. The 6-foot-9 player told ESPN in a May 2013 interview that then Baylor women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey told players not to discuss their sexuality. The reasoning was that it could negatively affect recruiting or generally disrupt the team’s brand.

Griner vs. Mulkey

Griner’s relationship with her former coach dissolved when she hit the WNBA, and in various articles and her book, “In My Skin,” where Mulkey was positioned as potentially being anti-gay. Mulkey was the head coach of Baylor for 21 years, and she is the first person in NCAA women’s basketball history to win a national championship as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. To be clear, she is also a star in Waco and a blond white woman that maintained athletic prowess in the heart of the South.

“I think what was painted of me, when that was scrolling at the bottom of ESPN … my son Kramer saw it first and he was devastated,” Mulkey said to ESPN. “I go back to all the people who know me, that have worked for me, played for me, grew up with me. It does not fit me. But to those who still think that, nothing I say would change their minds.”

What Was Brittney Griner Found Guilty Of?

Griner also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and entered a 26-week domestic violence counseling program following her 2015 arrest at her home in Goodyear, Arizona, for an incident with her then fiancée, former WNBA player Glory Johnson.

Griner has entered the post-release phase of polarization, which may open old wounds in Waco while creating new ones nationally. Still, only 20 people showed up to a celebration for a wrongfully detained champion of a prominent school in that city is a shame.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.